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Obvious

 

Attempting to fill my van’s water tanks while driving through outback South Australia, I discovered my hose attachment was too small for the tap. 

I made my way to the local shop and started rifling through their hose fittings selection. A fellow traveller passed me in the aisle, paused, and asked me what I was looking for. I explained the situation, showing him the attachment I had brought with me.

“May I?”, he asked, taking the hose attachment from me.

He then gently unscrewed the inner attachment layer to reveal a larger, perfectly sized neck. Turns out I had the right attachment all along, I just didn’t know it.

And that’s because I’d never thought to interrogate my understanding of a hose fitting.

What You See Is All There Is” (WYSIATI) is a cognitive bias popularised by Nobel Laureate Daniel Kahneman, and describes our tendency not to inquire beyond what is obvious.

When it comes to behaviour, what seems 'obvious' often isn't:

  • We assume people will do the right thing if we explain it, but superannuation has to be mandated in Australia to make sure we save for our retirement.
  • We believe more choice is better, but fewer options often improve the odds a decision will be made. Endless options can overwhelm us.
  • We think numbers are objective, but '97% fat free' is perceived differently from '3% fat', and $200 is different from $200 marked down from $300.

What's not immediately obvious, but crucial to understand, is:

  • There are common patterns in how humans make decisions;
  • It's often not your price that's the problem, but the perception of the price; and
  • What we stand to lose is typically more impactful than what we may gain.

The good news is, you’re holding the right hose fitting. It’s just a matter of unscrewing the cap to reveal the next layer.

 

 



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