New research sheds light on human decision making that can make you appear more attractive to potential partners.
When we are looking for love, it’s hard to know who to turn to for advice. Romantic films seem unrealistic, friends advice never gets you anywhere, and when you ask the rest of the internet what’s the best way to ’meet attractive people’, it points you to some rather questionable websites. If you’re on the hunt for love, this week’s Reality Swipe is for you! We have dug out some scientifically sound advice that will make you appear more attractive to the opposite sex, courtesy of one of the world’s most gifted Behavioural Economist… yes, you read that right, Economist. The people we usually consult to learn about the state of the economy, we should be asking them about the state of our love lives.
A Behavioural Economist is slightly different to a normal Economist. Most Economists will study human activity in terms of financial rewards. They try to predict markets, estimate price structures and keep watch for any potential fiscal crisis that may be coming (you only have to look back a few years to get an idea of how badly they are doing with that). Behavioural Economists are very different. They are concerned with how people act in general; it could be argued that they are closer aliened with psychologists rather than their partners that study the economy. This is why they are the perfect people to find insights into human behaviour, and one area they are starting to explain is how we all make decisions. This insight all started when Dan Ariely was looking to subscribe to a magazine online.
When Dan Ariely came to subscribe ‘The Economist’, his favourite magazine, he was greeted with the following 3 options:
Option 1, One Year Online Subscription – $59
Option 2, One Year Print Subscription – $125
Option 3, One Year Print & Online Subscription – $125
Re-read the following options. If you wanted to subscribe to the magazine what option would you pick? More importantly, is there one you wouldn’t pick? There is an obvious mistake.
Did you spot it? The mistake is, for those not paying attention, that anyone subscribing using Option 2 is wasting their money. This is because the Print Subscription is the same price as Print & Online Subscription. Getting less for the same amount of money is an obvious bad choice. So if this option is pointless, why have it as an option at all? Dan Ariely didn’t subscribe to the magazine. Instead, after reading this, he started research into how people make decisions. The first thing he did was run an experiment using the same offer that the magazine posed to him. What he found was astonishing.
When people were shown all 3 subscription options, 84% of people went for Option 3, the most expensive option, and hardly anyone picked Option 2. This was repeated and Option 2, the one nobody picked as it was the obvious bad choice, was removed. This simple change dramatically affected the result. When it was a choice between Option 1 and Option 3 The amount of people choosing the online and paper subscriptions (Option 3) dropped from 84% to 32%. Option 2 may seem pointless, and is rarely picked, but its presence impacts the final result. Having a bad option can change how people pick.
He found this when he repeated this experiment using 2 holiday destinations. If you ask people to choose between a free holiday to Rome that is all inclusive or Paris all inclusive, half will pick one and half the other. If you offer them to pick between Rome all inclusive, Paris all inclusive or Rome half board a significant amount more will pick Rome (and vice versa when the Paris is presented with the obvious worse option.) he also found that this applies to dating.
Ariely set up an experiment where he used two portraits, one he named Tom and the other Jerry. He showed there photos to participants in his experiment. Like in the choice between the holidays to Paris and Rome, the female participants saw hardly any difference between the two. Then they showed different groups Tom and Jerry’s photos again. The difference this time was they added a third picture. The third photo was either an ugly version of Tom or Jerry (see photo below). Once again, like in the experiments before, participants reacted to an obvious bad choice. Like the newspaper subscription, and the holiday experiment when a women was asked to pick the most attractive person, far more people favoured Tom when the line up included the ugly version of him, and Jerry when his edited photo was the third choice. This effect has now been replicated for men choosing women and worked exactly the same. No matter what it is, holiday, subscribing to a newspaper or finding someone attractive, people are far more likely to favour an option if it is accompanied with a obvious slightly worse option.
What we can take from Ariely work is that our decisions can be manipulated far easier than we would believe. There is still so much more to uncover about how humans make decisions, but this new breed of Economists are starting to understand it better. For those yet to work out the tip, the idea works the same as in all the experiments we have just discussed. To greatly improve your chances of someone finding you attractive make sure there is an obvious slightly worse option. Put simply; If you’re picking an internet dating profile picture, find one where you’re standing next to a friend who looks like an uglier version of you. Or, if you are going out to a bar, give that friend in the photo a ring and take him with you. It will increase your chances of impressing.