Christian Long

Dan Aierly: Are We In Control of Our Decisions?

In TED Talks on April 11, 2010 at 10:32 pm

Reflection by EDWARD C.

Original TED page w/ speaker bio, links, comments, etc:

Dan Ariely:  Are We in Control of Our Own Choices?

Decisions Decisions Decisions

Are we, as humans, in charge of our decisions? This question is so hard to answer because our society is constantly manipulating our mind to the point we are persuaded to do what the author of an ad wants us to do. It is not that we are incapable of making a choice but that we are so easily psychology deceived that we often ignore what we really want and go with what the ad is designed to make you want.

Have you ever walked from one point to another in a mall and see how many ads you are exposed to? Every single day we are exposed to large amounts of ads depending on what kind of environment we are located in. Whether we stop and examine the ads is not important because all the designer of the ad really wants to do is install an unconscious desire for the object the commercial is advertising and hoping that it will create a desire for the brand or product in the future. Such techniques utilize models, athletes, and other celebrities to attract your attention from what they don’t want you to pay attention to, such as the price of the product or maybe the fact that the product could possibly harm you. Every single time you buy a shirt with a Nike sign or purse with a Channel symbol you have been successfully influenced by the company. You could argue you choose to buy the product because it’s stylish but where did you get your definition of stylish? Is it from what you really believe is stylish or what Channel and your friends believe is stylish? Society is also another major influencer on our decision making. Suppose you go to school and a group of people harshly critique your style of clothing, would you wear the same clothes in front of them again? I’m sure there would be a few who would, but majority would not show up the next day with the same clothes on.

The example that describes the nation’s reaction to persuade their people to donate organs once they are deceased is another instance where people are swayed by the designer of the product. On a DMV (department of motor vehicles) sheet, in multiple countries, people were asked if they were willing to donate their organs after being deceased. In certain countries there was a high rate of yes and in other countries there was a high rate in no. Dan Ariely asks if this has to do with culture or religion.

When I first saw the video I thought the same thing but the answer to the question was no and no.

To support the answers he showed that certain countries on the graph shared somewhat similar cultures and religions with the other countries on the graph yet they did not share similar results. Later on in the presentation he revealed the secret to the diversity in results. It was because of a simple restructure of questioning. In the high resulting no countries the DMV asked the reader to check if they wanted to donate, and in the high resulting yes countries the DMV asked the reader to don’t check if you wanted to donate. It’s funny how one word can make such an impact on our decision making! But why is it that one word can make a huge jump in results? Is it because, like Dan said, we are lazy and don’t want to pick up the pen? Or is it because the decision is so difficult that we don’t know what to decide therefore leaving it alone.

I agree with Dan on the fact that we are stunned by the huge responsibility of such a question therefore leaving the box unchecked. Many experiments have been tested on people to see how they react when they are faced with too many, too complex or to serious choices. An article on this can be found on this site In the example that portrays doctor’s reactions toward a complex situation, Dan shows how even extremely bright doctors can react badly when faced with a too complex situation.

In the examples where Dan Ariely shows how our eyes can be easily deceived by simple repositioning and lighting of an object shows how easily one of the most used organs in our bodies can be so simply deceived. The illustrators of both examples know what a normal person would choose, the vertical table and the fact that the two colors are different on the rubix cube, but by simply moving the table around and flashing some light on a specific angle we are mislead. Why is this? I believe it is because we are so accustomed to our judgment in color and size that we don’t stop and question if it’s really the same size and color. These simple vision tricks further support my theory on how are choices can be so easily manipulated.

After these examples the question still remains, do we control our own decisions?

My answer is yes, to a certain extent. For every person it’s to a certain extent, depending on if the person’s personality and how he or she reacts to the advertised product. Although our world is full of manipulation, human beings are still capable of decision making.


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