Having your heart broken is never easy. You feel miserable; it feels like the end of your life. You imagine years of misery ahead of you and the future looks bleak. In reality however, the intensity and duration of that pain is not as much as you had anticipated. This is because we suffer from an Impact bias. We tend to overestimate the impact of an emotional event i.e. expect it to be more intense and enduring than it actually will be. This Impact bias applies to both negative and positive emotional events.
One of the ways to overcome Impact bias is to speak to someone who is experiencing the possible future and understand how they feel. For example when deciding where to vacation you may suffer from an Impact bias i.e. have an idealized view of a holiday in a particular place. It would be better to talk to someone who has been to the place to assess if this holiday location is what you should pick.
As consumers we seem to do this instinctively and rely on user reviews and word of mouth when making decisions.
What is more interesting however is when brands begin to look at Impact bias in their categories and redesign consumer experience.
Here is a great example: Museums today are struggling to attract Millenials who are time starved and seeking new experiences. When confronted with the choice of how to spend their time, visiting a museum does not sound as enticing as let’s say checking out the most popular videos on Youtube.
To overcome this museums have designed exhibits that allow for selfie moments which visitors can then share through social media.
Institutions around the globe — even some that once frowned on photography or that have banned the selfie stick — are creating even more selfie opportunities, sans stick, as a way to attract visitors, especially millennials. Some museums are even designing architecture that encourages the phenomenon. At the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, an expansion set to open next year includes terraces with views partly designed to encourage selfies. The museum’s curators are also discussing ways to incorporate selfie-friendly moments into exhibitions.
What is interesting here is that museums have redesigned consumer experience and how we consume art. And at the same time, they have used this to overcome the Impact bias.
There are many other categories where consumers suffer from Impact bias:
- In healthcare when patients have to make a choice between 2 alternative treatments they suffer from Impact bias and may not be picking the best alternative for them
- Similarly in the education industry consumers may not be making the best choices based solely on their own vision of a possible experience of one school/course over another.
So think about what decisions consumers are making in your category and how Impact bias is affecting the choices they make. Are there any design challenges you are missing?