It’s all about the Mayonnaise or How People Really Make Decisions

Did you know that when you make a decision, it is mostly based on memory and emotion?  That’s right.  Memory and emotion.  What?  Not you?  You only make decisions based on logic and reason?  Of course you do.  I work with a lot of construction service providers who tell me that there is only one criterion for choosing them:  price.  And I know that is a convenient excuse.  And sometimes it might even be true.

But according to the latest neuroscience, our decisions are based more on memory and emotion.  The decision making process lies deep within our subconscious.  And when you make a choice, you will try and justify it with logical decision making parameters.  But the actual decision has been made long before that cognitive exercise.  You don’t believe me?  Let’s try an experiment.

What kind of mayonnaise do you normally purchase?  If you don’t like mayonnaise, then what kind of peanut butter do you normally purchase?   Why did you choose that brand?  Did you make that choice on price?  What if the mayonnaise pictured was on sale for half of the price of your normal mayonnaise?  Would you buy it?  Likely not.  Why is that?  It’s because your choice for mayonnaise is based on the childhood memory of mayonnaise at your house.  There is probably also an emotional component to your purchase choice.  Think of the family recipe for potato salad, home grown tomato sandwiches, and backyard cookouts.  Those emotional memories are strong within you.  Are you a Kraft person? Hellman’s?  Duke’s?  Blue Plate? Or, God forbid, Miracle Whip?

We think that our purchase choices are made with logic, but they are not.  It’s the same thing with choosing construction service providers.  We blame the owner for his low cost mentality, but if there was a good emotional memory associated with the construction services that you provided in the past, then price would only be part of the equation.  The problem is that very few construction service providers provide a wonderful, joyful, positive emotional experience.  So the only criterion is price.  Wake up and smell the mayonnaise.  As Pogo put it, “We have met the enemy and he is us.”

If you want to know more about the neuroscience behind this phenomenon, check out two books:

Habit:  The 95% of Behavior Marketers Ignore by Neale Martin


Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman


One Response to It’s all about the Mayonnaise or How People Really Make Decisions

  1. Jan Swisher says:

    Brent, Very insightful post. Your examples of mayonnaise and peanut butter are good ones to show how I decided (a long time ago) what brands I would choose. The book you mentioned, Thinking Fast and Slow, sounds intriguing.

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