If you are someone like me, you would have gone through the pain of endlessly scrolling restaurants and dishes on an app before you found the one for the day. Or if you were lucky, you would have had your meal cooked by someone you love.
Every day we make thousands of choices subconsciously. Some of them are active choices but most of them are implicit defaults.
Influence of choices:
Every choice that we make is influenced by someone who has made a conscious decision to communicate the options in a certain manner. Think about it.
- A supermarket displaying certain products at eye level.
- A shop keeper pushing features of a certain mobile phone.
- A food ordering app displaying the bestsellers at the top.
- An e-commerce store highlighting discounts of select items.
The individual who influences your decision in the above context is called a choice architect.
A choice architect has the responsibility for organizing the environment in which people make decisions. In short, all designers are choice architects.
The responsibility of a choice architect
Every choice architect has an immense responsibility, as they influence the decisions made by others and they are expected to create those choices that are beneficial for the end user. Every insignificant detail can have major impacts on people’s behavior. A good rule of this is to assume that ‘everything matters’.
There are two schools of thoughts on how choice architects think about communicating choices to people.
One school of thought is to say that people are self-aware individuals and make the best choices in every situation and hence we lay out all the options and information in front of them and they make their own choice.
But in reality:
- In many cases, we are pretty bad at making decisions (i.e) we wouldn’t have made a certain decision if we had paid full attention and passed complete information and had self-control. We make better choices in familiar environments, not all are familiar ones.
- For example, we accept ‘terms and conditions’ on a website being unaware of the consequences of what we sign up for.
The other school of thought is that the choice architects choose exactly what an individual wants and put it in front of them so that they don’t have to make a choice.
But in reality:
- We equate ‘choice’ to freedom as it gives us the feeling of being in control of decisions that we make.
- In environments we trust, we accept the choice made by others. For example, the case where your loved ones pack a box of lunch and that makes us happy.
Is there a line that we could draw between the two schools of thoughts? Richard Thaler thinks so. He suggests the idea of libertarian paternalism.
Libertarian paternalism is a relatively weak, soft, and non-intrusive type of paternalism because choices are not blocked, fenced off, or significantly burdened.
Can there be a non-intrusive way of pushing people towards certain choices that might be beneficial for the individual?