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No. 12 of 36 What is Congruence Bias?

Congruence Bias refers to the fact that, as a species, we prefer to only test against our initial hypothesis, neglecting to explore alternative outcomes.

In other words, Congruence Bias is about testing to prove your hypothesis (direct testing), rather than trying to disprove it your initial hypothesis by exploring possible alternatives (indirect testing).

Congruence Bias in Retail

In retail, the majority of data that brands and retailers use is sales based. That is to say, the data analysed is mostly based on what was sold. But, by testing directly to prove the sales hypothesis, are brands and retailers missing some vital cues? The Congruence Bias can be limiting - here are some important, alternative factors often missed in data:

  1. Attention – how many shoppers that go into a store even see your brand?
  2. Appeal – of those who see your marque, what percentage does it appeal to?
  3. Engage – of those in store, how many of those that see you brand and find it appealing engage with it on shelf?

Once you look at sales data in context of attention, appeal and engagement, you not only realise where your biggest opportunities lie, but you are also able to optimise every step of the process. If you increase any of Attention, Appeal or Engagement, you are more than likely to improve sales as a direct result.

Why is Congruence Bias Problematic?

Congruence bias usually means you’re looking to confirm pre-existing hypotheses or ideas, as opposed to seeking out the best solution. This usually just means you are trying to prove yourself right, leaving you with tunnel vision and an ignorance to better possible solutions that surround you; you may end up eliminating a more effective solution or overlooking the real reason for changes in shopper behaviour.

An Example of Congruence Bias

A subject is presented with two identical items in different packaging. You have previously hypothesised that buyers will prefer packaging with human imagery on rather than illustrations, so when the results show that the packaging with the human imagery performed better, you assume victory! But were you right to do so? Probably not. Shoppers may have preferred the human imagery, but perhaps images of children, rather than adults, could be even more effective. By falling victim to Congruence Bias, you may have cut short your testing period and may not be reaching the full potential of your packaging due to not exploring alternative solutions.

How to Avoid Congruence Bias

Test more! Of course, you must test your hypothesis. But don't be satisfied with that. Try to disprove your hypothesis or test alternative ideas, too.

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 www.adcocksolutions.com, 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
Psychology & Behaviour
Change Consultant

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