Why Ads Love Making Your Decision Hard

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Who doesn't love love at first sight? With one look, you know everything you need to know. The choice becomes easy, inevitable even. But then again, the course of true love never ran smooth.


Researchers at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute have found that the reason we love romance novels and romcoms is pretty much the same reason we love difficult choices while shopping. In a new study published this week, the team looked into how we feel about purchases that required a lot of thought or research. That we're ultimately satisfied with such buys isn't the interesting part — it's how advertisers got us to congratulate ourselves for it.

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If you spend a lot of time deciphering an ad or reading up on a product, you start to engage with a phenomenon called disfluency, which is just difficulty in interpreting a message. We spend so much time trying to figure out the ad, in this case, that we wind up telling ourselves we were making an informed decision, rather than deciphering something confusing. That makes us more convinced of the rightness of our decision in the end.


"When people are making decisions, be it choosing between insurance products, retirement funds, or even when choosing an elected official," said coauthor Gaurav Jain, "marketers and designers need to remember that if we can make an individual spend some time in that choosing process, it's more likely people will stick with the option they chose over time."

This doesn't mean that your first choice or your final choice are actually the best ones — but depending on how you encounter it, you'll remain certain it was.