No.17 Distinction Bias & Shopping Sustainably

No.17 Distinction Bias & Shopping Sustainably

When we are choosing between two products simultaneously, our views are different.

Distinction bias is the tendency to view two options as more different when evaluating them simultaneously than when evaluating them separately.

For example, when asked if someone would like an apple, they may say "Yes". So, an apple is placed before them and they begin to eat it and are happy. But what if two apples were placed on the table, one was the one they would have happily eaten and the other which is slightly fresher looking. The individual will choose the fresher apple and eat it and be happy but if asked, "would you have enjoyed eating that other apple", they would likely say "No". Even though in the alternate, no-choice reality they were perfectly happy with the apple.

In-store, shoppers are often in comparison mode, evaluating products side by side, hypersensitive to the smallest differences, and this is where sustainability initiatives can have a leading role. But at home, when there is just one item present and no alternatives to compare against we wouldn’t think twice about it. It looks glorious in its singularity, whether its environmentally friendly or not.

Solus display

To make more sustainable shopping easier and efficient, try to deter shoppers from browsing environmentally-friendly alternatives in comparison mode. Otherwise they end up spending too much time playing “spot the difference.” Better to have shoppers compare a green product with a less green alternative (and make the difference obvious).

Play to your strengths

If your brand is superior in a sustainability credentials, develop ways to have shoppers focus on that aspect of every brand in the category.

In a store full of stuff, shoppers are going to be in comparison mode. This makes it harder for them to choose and more likely for them not to buy. Help shoppers by giving them guidance regarding what to compare (sustainability credentials).

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About Phillip Adcock

My name is Phillip Adcock: I have more than 30 years of human behavioural research and analysis, and have developed a unique ability to identify what it is that makes people psychologically and physiologically 'tick'.

Would you like to know more about how shoppers and consumers think? Download my FREE guide now. Alternatively, check out, where there are more FREE downloads available there. Or why not simply email me with what's on your mind?

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Phillip Adcock

Phillip Adcock CMRS
Psychology & Behaviour
Change Consultant

Phillips Signature

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