The Decoy Effect as a Covert Influence Tactic

ISI: The Decoy Effect as a Covert Influence Tactic


2011 - Journal of Behavioral Decision Making - Vol 24, N° 3, Pp 249-266


The purpose of this research was to determine whether individuals could use the decoy effect to influence others’ choices. In study 1, undergraduates (n¼50) and executive master’s of business administration (EMBA) students (n¼24) read an employee selection scenario in which they were randomly assigned to prefer one of two candidates that were equal in overall attractiveness, but that had different strengths and weaknesses. They were then asked to choose one of three inferior candidates to add to the choice set that would make their preferred candidate more likely to be chosen by other decision makers. The ‘‘correct’’ inferior candidate was asymmetrically dominated by one of the two existing candidates, but not the other. Participants chose the ‘‘correct’’ decoy candidate at better than chance levels. In study 2, undergraduates and EMBA students (total n¼66) completed a set of four decision tasks, in which they were asked to choose from potential decoy alternatives that would highlight their preferred job candidate or the product they preferred to sell to a customer. Participants again chose the correct option at better than chance levels. When participants provided free-response reasons for their choices, these responses indicated a fairly strong recognition of the influential nature of creating a dominating relationship. Implications for understanding this effect and how it may be used by hiring managers, sales personnel, and others who attempt to influence others people’s decisions at work, are discussed. 


Decoy effect; Employee selection; Applied decision making influence tactics; Consumer choice.

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