The Decoy Effect, a psychological trick that can influence what you buy and who you vote for

The other day I was thinking about the nudge value of the choice of descriptions between
Small Medium Large and
Small Regular Large

Does Regular push more Large choices or does Medium? There might be some other value which I have not spotted of course.


I’m fairly happy with our house, but I realized that our buyer’s agent used a sort of “bracketing” tactic which is similar or the same as this. We said we thought we could afford something in the range of $50k-$60k. She showed us five houses within that range, then one that was $68k and one that was $80k. The first five had problems or weird designs. The sixth one was much better. And the last one was not much bigger or better than the sixth, but cost more. Afterwards I realized that she engineered this Goldilocks situation for us. I try to watch for this technique when I’m buying something now, but I’m satisfied with our manipulated decision.


To paraphrase @counterspin


This has always bothered me, it seems to be a problem with paying an agent a commission based on the sale price. If I ever find myself shopping for a home, I would like to try to find an agent who will agree to help me for a flat fee, to avoid that kind of situation. I wonder if any would be willing to…

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Noodles & Company does something similar; the large orders (about twice a sensible portion) cost only $1-$2 higher than the appropriately-sized small orders.

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I’m not actually persuaded that this is what is at play, and not just the actual costs for the cinema. You get more popcorn per dollar with the bigger box, but there’s fixed costs incurred in terms of the time of person serving you, the cost of the box, the inefficiency of making a small amount of popcorn, the disposal of waste, etc etc. The cinema might well rather sell 2 large boxes of popcorn than 3 small boxes for this reason.

They also call the large size “Regular” and the only other size “Small”.


Oh, yeah, I forgot about that one. It’s when you look at the calorie counts that you can see what’s really going on.

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I hope to avoid this problem by never moving again … unless I come into enough money to make it a negligible problem.

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