Suffering from: the decoy effect

You may be the victim of this disorder without even knowing it.

by Helen Kirwan-Taylor
Last Updated: 09 Oct 2013

Also called the 'asymmetric dominance effect' (don't ask me why), this is when you are unwittingly manipulated by the choices presented by others.

You may have wanted to hire John because he was substantially smarter than Bill, but the boss liked Bill so he made you interview someone just as smart as John, but who also has a stutter or bad breath. Pretty soon you're thinking, Bill actually looks pretty good, come to think of it, I agree with the boss.

The decoy effect is how estate agents get you to buy the more expensive flat by offering you a third, inferior, alternative. It's an essential tool for politicians (throw in a dud and you change your vote) and retailers wanting you to buy the most expensive item.

Next time your company is asked to be part of a beauty contest, watch out. You may be the decoy.

Contact Helen at

Find this article useful?

Get more great articles like this in your inbox every lunchtime

Mike Ashley: Does it matter if the public hates you right now?

The Sports Direct founder’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic has drawn criticism, but in the...

4 films to keep you sane during the coronavirus lockdown

Cirrus CEO Simon Hayward shares some choices to put things in perspective.

Pandemic ends public love affair with Richard Branson et al

Opinion: The larger-than-life corporate mavericks who rose to prominence in the 80s and 90s suddenly...

The Squiggly Career: How to be a chief strengths spotter

When leading remotely, it's more important than ever to make sure your people spend their...

"Blind CVs don't improve your access to talent"

Opinion: If you want to hire socially mobile go-getters, you need to know the context...

The highs and lows of being a super-achiever

Pay it Forward podcast: techUK boss Jacqueline de Rojas and Google UK's marketing strategy and...