The “Contrast Effect” is like your brain’s own pair of quirky glasses. It doesn’t let you see things as they really are. Instead, it has you sizing things up based on their neighbors.
1️⃣ You sip a lukewarm coffee, then you take a sip of an ice-cold soda. Whoa! That soda seems EXTRA cold. That’s the contrast effect.
2️⃣ You’re watching a movie marathon, starting with a gut-wrenching drama and ending with a rom-com. You find the rom-com way funnier than it really is, just because it’s such a relief after all those tears.
3️⃣ You’ve been apartment hunting in a pricey neighborhood. Then you find one that’s slightly less expensive. Suddenly, it seems like a bargain.
Here are 5 handy tactics for avoiding the contrast effect:
1️⃣ Cleanse your Decision-Making Palette
Just like a refreshing sorbet between dinner courses, you need to cleanse your brain of past information. After considering each option, purposefully seek out an opposite. Don’t evaluate all the expensive cars on one day, then all the cheap cars the next. Mix it up: expensive, then cheap, then expensive again.
2️⃣ Ground Yourself with the Ludicrous
After considering one choice, run through a completely LUDICROUS opposite choice in your head. Brain science shows it actually helps. Examples:
-“This new job should pay me a million dollars an hour.”
-“This restaurant should always feed me for free.”
3️⃣ Purposefully String Out the Decision
Important choices should never be once-and-done. Your judgments are wildly swayed by mood, fatigue, fear level and bunches of other factors. All these crazy versions of you should vote during many sessions, over the course of several days.
4️⃣ Seek Independent Validation
Have a trusted friend take a peek at your choices. It’s like having a referee during a game, someone who can make the call without a stake in the outcome.
5️⃣ Red Alert When You’re Rushed
If you must make a decision fast, be EXTRA careful. This is the time you’ll be powerfully compelled to make a purely emotional choice. Are there any options to choose later?