How to Defeat the Retail Industry's Ninja Mind Tricks

If there's one truth about humanity, it's this: we are products of cognitive and psychological bias. And our biases often trip up our minds in unexpected and costly ways.

And it's funny: by some odd coincidence, certain industries--namely, the retail industry, the consumer products industry and the food industry--have become exceptionally skilled at using our own worst biases against us.

It turns out that this highly convenient "coincidence" not only affects our consumption decisions, it also directly affects our financial wealth, our perceived status among our peers, even our personal happiness and satisfaction with our lives.

If we let it, of course.

That's why empowered consumers must have some working knowledge of the most common forms of cognitive and psychological bias. More importantly, we should also understand exactly how these biases are used by marketers and advertisers when they sell us the stuff we buy.

As consumers, we have an obligation to fight back and think for ourselves, rather than allow ourselves to be misled. And in this upcoming post series, I'm going to walk through several of the most important biases we face as consumers. Biases that cause us to spend more of our hard-earned money than we want to, that cause us to misjudge value, or that cause us to take action when we shouldn't.

A quick side-note to readers: This post was originally a 4,000-word monstrosity that would have shattered all records at Casual Kitchen for post length. That was before I decided to have mercy on my readers and break it down into a multi-part series. Just be warned that for the next couple of weeks the post frequency will increase to two articles a week, with a new post running every Tuesday and an extra post on Wednesday. As always, I live for your comments and feedback.

Finally, I invite you to share how you've learned to counteract each of the biases we discuss. What ideas and solutions work best for you? By sharing your thoughts on any of the upcoming posts, you too can help the thousands of readers here at CK become more savvy and more aware consumers.

Tomorrow I'll start with a brief post on the most subversive (and expensive) bias of all: Association.

Finally, here's the entire archive of articles in this series:

Retail Ninja Mind Trick #1: Association
Retail Ninja Mind Trick #2: Hedonic Adjustment
Retail Ninja Mind Trick #3: False Comparisons and False Expertise
Retail Ninja Mind Trick #4: Habituation
Retail Ninja Mind Trick #5: Value and Discounting Biases
Retail Ninja Mind Trick #6: Rationalization and Justification
Retail Ninja Mind Trick #7: False Urgency
Retail Ninja Mind Tricks: Conclusions

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Matt @ SpoonMatters said...

Sounds like an interesting series, can't wait to read it! I've started to recognize bias in comments by friends and family that relate to their shopping/eating habits. But I think it's harder to catch your own bias before it happens. Looking forward to your thoughts on the subject.

Daniel said...

I hope it's interesting too. :) All I can say is I had a blast writing this series, and I couldn't agree more with you on recognizing one's own bias.

I took a fair amount pyschology coursework more years ago than I can count, but it took me until now before I could really step back and clearly see my own foibles. And I probably still don't see them all...


Eleni said...

Well, I never sat with the cool kids nor the band geeks, so luckily my training in Learning to Avoid Stuff That's "Cool" started at an early age :)

I did Psychology at uni so I'm really looking forward to your posts!