How to Move Customers to Greater Action

How to Work With the Ambiguity Effect

A customer is deciding between two products to purchase. Option 1 is a product they've used several times. It works decently well. Option 2 is a product that might work better than option 1 but is higher priced. Which product is the person likely to choose?

Research shows that most people will select Option 1. Social scientists have labeled this effect as the Ambiguity Effect (AE).

 

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What is the Ambiguity Effect?

The Ambiguity Effect (AE) is a psychological bias that causes people to choose options that have a clear positive outcome over options that have an unknown outcome (i.e. ambiguity). This is even the case when the unknown outcomes might have greater benefits than known outcomes.

 

Why don't people choose ambiguous options?

There are two major reasons why people resist ambiguous options. First, options that have unknown outcomes have higher risk. Outcomes with risk are less likely to be chosen because people like to select options with the highest probability of success. The second reason is that the brain has made this decision into an automatic preset. (Read about heuristics to learn more about automatic presets.) Any time we are faced with ambiguity in a decision, our natural tendency is to choose options that have known outcomes.

The Ambiguity Effect creates a problem for moving people to action. Unless people can be shown that a course of action has a known favorable outcome, they aren't likely to follow that course of action.

 

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How to remove or reduce the Ambiguity Effect

The root cause of the Ambiguity Effect is risk and uncertainty about options. Here are some ways companies can reduce these issues:

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How to Create Customer and Employee Movement

There are a lot of psychological barriers that impede people moving from point A to point Z. At Bitesize, we've developed a methodology for helping masses to reach point Z. To learn more, visit our Methodology Page.