Graeme Newell

Virtuous Vice

Luckily, morality is always graded on a sliding scale. Marketers understand this and that’s why so many of them tempt us with the VIRTUOUS VICE, a single feature that’s a cognitive get-out-of-jail-free card. They lure us into complacency by claiming this burger isn’t as bad as OTHER burgers. Unlike Carl’s Jr.’s competitors, this artery-choking, fat-bomb is ALL NATURAL. But unfortunately, dying from a heart attack is all natural as well.

Our brain fixates on that single good feature. This allows us to effortlessly convince ourselves that doing bad things is actually GOOD because we could be doing WORSE things. For example:

– “Sure, I’m driving a ginormous SUV, but it’s a HYBRID, so I’m really saving the planet.”

Oversimplification is our brain’s favorite pastime. It really hates hard work, so our brain isn’t looking to find the BEST choice. Instead, it’s looking to quickly find a MINIMALLY ACCEPTABLE choice so it can stop working so hard and get back to binge watching cat videos. That’s why we so effortlessly make summary judgments based on a single characteristic.

– “Emily was rude to me that one time, so she must be a reprehensible human being.”
– “The first product failed, so I’m sure the entire company is doomed.”

So don’t let one shiny object fool you. Be on the lookout for the VIRTUOUS VICE.