Alex Stone takes a look at the force, a tremendous weapon in the arsenal of magicians everywhere.
To illustrate the psychology behind a force works, he brings up a legal example. Two parents are getting divorced, Parent A is average across the board including health, income and relationship with the child. Meanwhile, Parent B brings home a bigger paycheck, is closer with the child but also suffers from minor health problems and travels a lot for work.
So which Parent did respondents choose?
The answer, rather unexpectedly, depended on how the question was phrased. When the jury was asked, “Which parent would you deny sole custody of the child?” they awarded the child to Parent A. But when asked, “To which parent would you award sole custody of the child?” Parent B got the kid. The reason for this discrepancy, Shafir concluded, was that the former question draws attention to the parents’ strengths—which favors Parent B, who boasts two strong attributes despite also having some negative ones—while the latter question highlights the parents’ weaknesses—which favors the safer bet, Parent A, who though never rising above “average” in any area has no real negatives.
The point: we gloss over elements of how questions are phrased and underestimate how they effect our decisions.
Read the rest of the Discover Magazine blog post here.