Dana Carney of Berkeley’s Haas School of Business and Mahzarin Banaji of Harvard University investigated whether people prefer the first option they receive in their paper, “First is Best”.
Olympics gymnastic competitors are aware of this phenomenon, and typically prefer to perform first, to “set the standard” against which other competitors must excel.
Volunteers in one experience were shown pictures of two violent criminals and then asked which one deserved parole.
Most favored the first mug shot they viewed, no matter the order of viewing.
Similarly, 68% of respondents at a railway station in Boston preferred the first stick of gum they were offered, and volunteers preferred to buy a car from the first salesperson they met.
This is one reason that the first advertisement break on television costs 10-15% more than the second, according to Jonathan Allan, sales director at British broadcaster Channel 4.
Carney and Banaji concluded that people “consistently” the first choice if they have time limits or are distracted, and that this primacy effect is even more important online, because few people scroll through dozens of pages of search results.
Google page rankings, and dating sites such as Badoo, are aware of this trend, and offer enhancements to position results in a more eye-catching location.
Awareness of the human cognitive short-cuts that bias decision making can mitigate their effects.
-*What decision short-cuts do you use?
-*When have you seen these heuristics lead to decision bias?
Blindspot: Hidden Biases of Good People, Mahzarin R. Banaji, Anthony G. Greenwald