Suffering from: the decoy effect

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

by Helen Kirwan-Taylor

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

Sign in to continue

Sign in

Trouble signing in?

Reset password: Click here


Call: 020 8267 8121



  • Up to 4 free articles a month
  • Free email bulletins

Register Now

Get 30 days free access

Sign up for a 30 day free trial and get:

  • Full access to
  • Exclusive event discounts
  • Management Today's print magazine

Join today