A leader in decision-making research reveals how choices are designed—and why it’s so important to understand their inner workings
Every time we make a choice, our minds go through an elaborate process most of us never even notice. We’re influenced by subtle aspects of the way the choice is presented that often make the difference between a good decision and a bad one. How do we overcome the common faults in our decision-making and enable better choices in any situation? The answer lies in more conscious and intentional decision design.
Going well beyond the familiar concepts of nudges and defaults, The Elements of Choice offers a comprehensive, systematic guide to creating effective choice architectures, the environments in which we make decisions. The designers of decisions need to consider all the elements involved in presenting a choice: how many options to offer, how to present those options, how to account for our natural cognitive shortcuts, and much more. These levers are unappreciated and we’re often unaware of just how much they influence our reasoning every day.
Eric J. Johnson is the lead researcher behind some of the most well-known and cited research on decision-making. He draws on his original studies and extensive work in business and public policy and synthesizes the latest research in the field to reveal how the structure of choices affects outcomes.
We are all choice architects, for ourselves and for others. Whether you’re helping students choose the right school, helping patients pick the best health insurance plan, or deciding how to invest for your own retirement, this book provides the tools you need to guide anyone to the decision that’s right for them.
People's choices are not entirely their own making advises Johnson (Decision Research), the director of Columbia Business School's Center for Decision Sciences, in this energetic survey. Dissatisfied with how decision research and behavioral economics usually focus on showing people as bad decision-makers, he takes aim instead at those who influence decisions in order to better guide consumers towards more informed choices. People will usually choose the "plausible path" that contains the most accessible credible information, Johnson writes, and presents a slew of stories about how these plausible paths are made. For example: before a computer program made it easier, doctors more often prescribed generic drugs because their names came to memory quicker; higher tip suggestions in cabs work; and a high number of people in America aren't organ donors simply because it's the default option on forms (and becoming a donor would require them to check a box). Ultimately, Johnson writes, choosers are often unaware of the systems that impact their decision-making, and the onus is on designers, engineers, and advertisers to take the high road and "design for others as you would like them to design for you." Readers will be fascinated and crestfallen by this persuasive exploration.