Heuristics, Ho!

This pricing I just saw on Bioshock Infinite inspired me to make a quick note:


This is just a nice example of what psychologist and influence connoisseur Robert Cialdini would call a “click, whirr” moment. Bioshock Inifinite is only discounted three cents here, but we’re so used to thinking that something is a good buy if its full price is scratched out and a “SALE!” price is written in red that our brains develop what’s called a heuristic –an effort saving mental shortcut.

Though even just a second of observation reveals that the discount is meaningless, that first impression has already been seized by the fast-processing part of your brain and it can subtly and subconsciously influence your perception of price. It’s an old trick.

4 thoughts on “Heuristics, Ho!

  1. Target takes this a step further. They have pseudo-sale tags they put on goods. They look similar and have the same easily-recognized red. But they just list the MSRP and say “As Advertised”.

    • Yep, it’s everywhere. I actually saw a sign once that said something like “Sale: 10 for $10 (normally $1 each).”

  2. The problem is after a while the heuristic will change if retailers keep pulling silly garbage like this. People will see this everywhere and they’ll just be used to it, it won’t mean “sale” any more, and they’ll have to change the whole system.

  3. Wow, it’s like the marketing department actually want us to hate their company.

    You’d notice this later on even if it did shortcut your normal thinking process and you would (I assume, I know I would) be annoyed by being taken in by it.

    Is there a special psychological name for being a marketing twat, or a greedy company pushing sales?

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