Centre Stage Effect

social norms@2x.png

Centre Stage Effect

When given a range of options, people prefer the one in the middle.

Valenzuela, A., Raghubi, P. (2009) Position-based Beliefs: The Center-Stage Effect

 
 

The backstory

The majority of people choose the one in the middle. From picking answers on multiple choice tests1  to toilet cubicles2 and purchases3. The majority choose the middle option.

It’s due to how we look at things. When you first look you look to the middle, then scan out towards the edges. This creates a bias towards the centre of our visual field. The more attention we pay to things, the more we look, the more we like and the more likely we are to make that choice. This Gaze Cascade Effect4 means we tend to ignore the other options outside of the middle.

Researchers Valenzuela and Raghubir propose that the effect is social in nature5. Their study found that most consumers believe retailers put the most popular items in the middle. People’s nature to follow the herd then means we like to choose the products others have also chosen.

Before we all start putting everything in the middle, the effect doesn’t work in some cases.

When information is presented sequentially the centre effect disappears. Instead, people tend to choose the first and last on the list. For example, the names listed on a ballot paper.

 

Start using

Ask yourself…

What if you put the option you want people to choose in the middle?
 
What if you introduced an additional extreme option to make the middle option seem more desirable?
What if you changed how the other options appear - their cost, value, features - to make the middle option appear more desirable?
 
 

Keep reading

Read paper: Rodway, Schepman & Lambert (2012). Preferring the One in the Middle: Further Evidence for the Centre‐stage Effect

Read paper: Atalay, S. Bodur, O., Rasolofoarison, D. (2012) Shining in the Center: Central Gaze Cascade Effect on Product Choice

 

References:

1. Attali, Y. and Bar-Hillel, M. (2003). Guess Where: The Position of Correct Answers in Multiple Choice Test Items as a Psychometric Variable.

2. Christenfeld, N. (1995), Choices from Identical Options. Psychological Science.

3. Valenzuela, A., Raghubi, P. (2009) Position-based Beliefs: The Center-Stage Effect.

4. Atalay, S. Bodur, O., Rasolofoarison, D. (2012) Shining in the Center: Central Gaze Cascade Effect on Product Choice.

5. Valenzuela, A., Raghubi, P. (2009) Position-based Beliefs: The Center-Stage Effect