Our Decisions are Influenced by the Way the Choices are Posed

Posted by Kristin Arnold on February 22, 2022

Every day, we pose choices to our friends, colleagues, and families.  The way that decision is presented can influence the decision – for good or bad.

Eric Johnson, in his book, The Elements of Choice, shares some amazing insights about “choice architecture” – the design of how to present and influence (intentionally or not) what you will choose.

Yes, it is a bit creepy and scary, but engrossing to read as we are subject to good and bad choice architecture all the time…and we don’t even know it!  And, we are consciously or unconsciously subjecting others with our biases in the way that we are shaping their choices!

The book is easy to follow (although Johnson rambles and repeats himself a bit), talking about:
Plausible Paths. These are the paths you take on autopilot, made quickly and without a lot of reasoning (however, they end up shaping the rest of your journey!). Some of these “assembled preferences” are quite predictable!

Decisions by Default. This is what happens when people don’t make a decision (which, after all, IS a decision!).

How Many Options? – It isn’t about how many options you have, but how to present the options more fluently and facilitating a more accurate choice.

Putting Things in Order. Yes, indeed, the order of options on a list can influence our decisions.

Describing Options. This part is about including the way options are described and compared.

Building Choice Engines. There are ways to augment and react to the preferences of the chooser.  Most common on websites, they are highly customizable to the user, they give control to the chooser to conform to the desired plausible path, and they help the chooser comprehend their choice.

The book concludes with some ideas on how we can become better choice architects…which makes me feel more optimistic and in control of choices and decisions I will make.


KRISTIN ARNOLD, MBA, CPF | Master, CSP is a high-stakes meeting facilitator and professional panel moderator.  She’s been facilitating teams of executives and managers in making better decisions and achieving greater results for over 27 years.  She is the author of the award-winning book, Boring to Bravo: Proven Presentation Techniques to Engage, Involve and Inspire Audiences to Action.  Her latest book, 123 Ways to Add Pizazz to a Panel Discussion was published in January 2021.

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KRISTIN ARNOLD, MBA, CSP, CPF|Master has been facilitating meaningful conversations between executives and managers to make better decisions and achieve extraordinary results for 25+ years. She's a leading authority on moderating panel discussions and passionate about finding the perfect olive to complement a vodka martini.

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