The Deception of Enticement

By Wylie Stiver
Junior Category (Grades 7-8)
Experiment | Psychology

BCVSF Note: The required ethics forms have been submitted for this project.

We make choices every day. Around 35 000 choices to be exact. With sleep factored in, that is around one decision every two seconds. And all of these choices influence what happens to us in the future, and how we see ourselves in the past. Many things influence our choices. But it is only when we open our eyes to marketing strategies and suggestive trickery that they become evident in our everyday lives. We may be in control of what we do, but we are not always aware of what decisions we make and what decisions our subconscious brains make for us. And even sometimes, we may make conscious choices due to a subconscious influence.

In this experiment, I wanted to see just how influential these psychological strategies can be when we make decisions. My goal is to gain a better understanding of decision-making and how to identify the strategies in our world that are intended to alter our choices, in order to prepare myself for the world and society’s secrets.

The purpose of this experiment is: (1) to determine the impact of the Decoy Effect on decision-making and, (2) to determine how a person’s age and the number of choices they are given affects decision-making time.

I used 14 participants in total; 4 adults ages 45-50 and 10 children ages 12-14. I placed two pictures in front of them and allowed them to choose. I also timed their choice. Then I repeated the choice with a decoy card added and timed their choice again. I repeated with the adult age group and recorded the results.

I hypothesised that If people between the ages of 12-14 are given a choice between two options, then they will make a choice in less time than people between the ages of 45-50 and solely based on personal preference.
If a decoy option is added, then all age groups will be more inclined to choose the target. If this addition is placed, then there will also be an increased decision-making time for all subjects because of the principles of Hick’s Law (information gain is constant with time). If older people are tested, they will take longer than younger children to make a choice in total.

The majority of results after the 12-14 year-old tests matched my hypothesis. 42.9% more people chose the target option when the decoy card was placed. The overall time it took the subjects to choose an option increased by 1.70 seconds. For my 45-50 experiment, 25% more people chose the target. As for time, it took an average of 3.18 seconds more when the third option was added.

As for the age comparison, this also matched my hypothesis. People ages 45-50 took, on average, 1.7 seconds longer to choose during the control testing than ages 12-14. And they took 3.32 more seconds to choose when the decoy card was added.

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