No.32 Pseudocertainty & Shopping Sustainably

No.32 Pseudocertainty & Shopping Sustainably

How can employers guide shoppers towards the more sustainable option?

In prospect theory, the pseudocertainty effect is the tendency for people to perceive an outcome as certain while it is actually uncertain. It can be observed in multi-stage decision making, in which evaluation of the certainty of the outcome in a previous stage of decisions is disregarded when selecting an option in subsequent stages.

Research has demonstrated that humans tend to believe that we have more control over future events than we really do, and that the future is more predictable than it really is. This is certainly a bias stoked by modern media in relation to sustainability. From this perspective, the elimination of one particular risk offers an “illusion of control“ which many people find appealing, hence the term “pseudo-“ or false certainty.

When it comes to communicating sustainability messages with shoppers and consumers, remember, that they will tend to emphasise the positive over the negative. We really do look for the good in everyone.

Emphasise the risk

When you want shoppers to make a choice and you want them to take a risk, you emphasise the negative environmental consequences.

Emphasise the positive

When you want shoppers to take a guaranteed path that may be incomplete, you emphasise the positive.

Pause and reflect

Whenever you present shoppers with a choice you should ask yourself whether it is better phrased positively or negatively.

Basically, by phrasing a choice differently, you can guide people into making the sustainability related choice you want them to. If you find that your choice flips with the phrasing, then this bias is in play and you need to think things through more carefully.

Found this blog post useful?

Why not get a FREE brand review to boost your brand communications...

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?

If you think there is value in this article then please, please share it, thank you.

Phillip Adcock

Phillip Adcock CMRS
Psychology & Behaviour
Change Consultant

Phillips Signature

Explore our Brainsights

The Business Benefits of Behavioural Science Coaching

Understanding human behaviour is key to business success, this behavioural science coaching offers a powerful tool to unlock your organisation's full potential.

Read Story

Behavioural Science & Shopper Psychology Workshops

Are you ready to unlock the power of Behavioural Science & transform your business with Shopper Psychology-based insights?

Read Story

Get the latest brainsights straight to your email box

We will never share your email address with third parties.
By subscribing you agree to with our Privacy Policy and provide consent to receive updates from our company.