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Imagine putting on an old coat you haven’t worn in a while and, to your surprise, you find a crumpled $20 bill in your pocket. What good does it do? Do you go up half a notch on a mood scale of one to ten, or maybe a full notch?
Let’s imagine a different scenario. You buy ice cream from an ice cream cart and pay a $20 bill. Suddenly, a gust of wind blows it away from your hand and into a nearby sewer grate. How does this affect your mood on a scale of one to ten?
If you’re like most people, you feel a lot worse losing $20 than winning $20. This tendency is called loss aversion, one of the many dangerous errors in judgment that behavior scientists call cognitive biases.
Loss aversion is one of the top three reasons our minds get sucked – and sucked – into Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales. Retailers know that our intuitive reaction is to avoid loss, with research showing that this motivation could be up to twice as powerful as the desire to make a profit. By offering short-term sales, only available on Black Friday or Cyber Monday, they tap into our deep intuition to protect us from losing the opportunity that the sale represents.
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Let’s imagine a different scenario. It’s Cyber Monday, and you’ve decided to check out the deals on an e-commerce site. You go there confident that you’ll only get one or two of the best deals.
But once you visit the website, you are hooked. All of these deals are great, with prices so much lower than usual. You can’t let them pass! So you end up taking advantage of a bunch of offers and buying a lot more than you originally planned.
Why did this happen? Why couldn’t you control yourself? This is due to a cognitive bias called retention bias.
We greatly overestimate the extent to which we can restrain our impulses. In other words, we have less self-control and a weaker will than we like to believe.
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The last key psychological reason you get sucked into Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales is that you are reading this article. Here’s the thing: the abundance of news, ads, and social media posts around Black Friday and Cyber Monday makes it seem like everyone’s thinking about sales on those days and looking for bargains.
As a result, our minds are urging us to jump on the Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales bandwagon, a trend scientists call the bandwagon effect. When we perceive other people aligning around something, we are predisposed to join them. After all, they wouldn’t if it wasn’t a good idea, would they?
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Loss aversion, restraint bias, and the bandwagon effect are mental blind spots that impact decision-making in all areas of life, from the future of work to fitness. mental. By knowing them, you can work to notice and resolve these issues.
For example, a useful strategy for Black Friday and Cyber Monday is to decide in advance what purchases you want to make if they are on sale and purchase them online rather than in stores. For example, you might decide to buy a certain laptop if it’s more than 20% off, or a specific big-screen TV if it’s 30% off. Save the website pages for the laptop or TV you want to buy, then visit them on Black Friday and Cyber Monday to see if they’re on sale. If not, be disciplined and don’t buy anything else, because you might find yourself stuck buying a lot more than you wanted. Instead, wait for the Christmas sale.