|Is The First Option Best?|
|Living - Society|
|TS-Si News Service|
|Sunday, 08 July 2012 06:00|
Berkeley, CA, USA. A study finds that people facing a choice consistently prefer the first options: first in line, first college to offer acceptance, first salad on the menu.
In three experiments, when making quick choices, participants consistently preferred people (salespersons, teams, criminals on parole) or consumer goods presented first as opposed to similar offerings in second and sequential positions.
"Our research shows that managers, for example in management or marketing, may want to develop their business strategies knowing that first encounters are preferable to their clients or consumers." The study found that especially in circumstances under which decisions must be made quickly or without much deliberation, preferences are unconsciously and immediately guided to those options presented first.
Firsts Preferred Even When Completely Unwarranted And Irrational
The study was conducted by Dana R. Carney, assistant professor of management at the Haas School of Business (University of California, Berkeley), and co-author Mahzarin R. Banaji, professor of psychology at Harvard University.
The authors say their findings may have practical applications in a variety of settings. "The order of individuals performing on talent shows like American Idol. The order of potential companies recommended by a stockbroker. The order of college acceptance letters received by an applicant.
All of these firsts have privileged status," says Dana Carney. The detailed study findings appear in the journal PLoS ONE.
If order matters, why?
Carney contends the proven "primacy has power" theory may provide the best answers. The paper cites, "a preference for firsts has its origins in an evolutionary adaptation favoring firsts …"
For example, in most cases, humans tend to innately prefer the first people they meet: a mother, family members. In addition, those preferences are associated with what's safe.
Carney says the historic concept of the established pecking order also supports their findings that people find "first is best."While there are sometimes rational reasons to prefer firsts (e.g., the first resume is designated on the top of the pile because that person wanted the job the most). Carney says the first is best effect suggests that firsts are preferred even when completely unwarranted and irrational.
The study's first experiment asked 123 participants to evaluate three groups: (a) two teams, (b) two male salespersons, and (c) two female salespersons.
When asking participants about their choices, the researchers asked about choice in two ways:
Regardless of whom people said they preferred, on the unconscious, cognitive measure of preference, participants always preferred the first team or person to whom they were introduced.
To test the choice preferences of consumer goods, the researchers asked 207 passengers at a train station to select one of two pieces of similar bubble gum in a "rapid decision task" or choosing within a second of seeing the choices (using psychologist Daniel Kahneman's theory on thinking, fast and slow). Once again, the result was the same: when thinking fast, the bubble gum presented first was the preferable choice in most cases.
Researchers considered the salespeople and the gum relatively positive stimuli, without controversy. In order to test their theory with negatively charged options, Carney and Banaji asked another group of 31 participants to choose between pairs of convicted criminals and decide which one was more worthy of parole instead of prison. After viewing mug shots of two 29 year-old criminals known to have committed the same violent crimes with similar features and facial expressions, again, when "thinking fast," participants judged the first criminal presented as more worthy of parole.
FundingDana R. Carney and Mahzarin R. Banaji were supported by Mind/Brain/Behavior Interfaculty Initiative (MBB) at Harvard University.
Additionally, Mahzarin R. Banaji was supported by grants from the Third Millennium Foundation, the National Institutes of Mental Health (NIMH) and the Mind Science Institute.
CitationFirst Is Best. Dana R. Carney and Mahzarin R. Banaji. PLoS ONE 2012; 7(6): e35088. doi:journal.pone.0035088
We experience the world serially rather than simultaneously. A century of research on human and nonhuman animals has suggested that the first experience in a series of two or more is cognitively privileged. We report three experiments designed to test the effect of first position on implicit preference and choice using targets that range from individual humans and social groups to consumer goods. Experiment 1 demonstrated an implicit preference to buy goods from the first salesperson encountered and to join teams encountered first, even when the difference in encounter is mere seconds. In Experiment 2 the first of two consumer items presented in quick succession was more likely to be chosen. In Experiment 3 an alternative hypothesis that first position merely accentuates the valence of options was ruled out by demonstrating that first position enhances preference for the first even when it is evaluatively negative in meaning (a criminal). Together, these experiments demonstrate a “first is best” effect and we offer possible interpretations based on evolutionary mechanisms of this “bound” on rational behavior and suggest that automaticity of judgment may be a helpful principle in clarifying previous inconsistencies in the empirical record on the effects of order on preference and choice.
|Last Updated on Saturday, 07 July 2012 21:56|