As humans we love to compare things – we can’t help it.  Which is better Jam or Jelly?  Which team is better the Colts or the Patriots?  Which is more difficult running 5 miles or bicycling 10 miles?  The trouble is that sometimes comparisons can get us into trouble.  Consider this question:

If you were going to buy a new 42 inch television for $750 but found that if you drive to the other side of town you can get it for $500, would you drive across town to save the money?


The answer is overwhelmingly yes.  Most people would drive across town.  It’s what we call a no-brainer.

Here is the next question:

You decided that you are going to purchase a new automobile.  You have scoured the town looking for just the right car.  Finally, after a painstaking search you have found it.  The price is $28,750.  Not bad you think.  However, your wife just found the same new automobile on the other side of town for $28,500.  Will you drive to the other side of town to purchase it?

Most people answer no to this question.  What?  It’s the same $250 bucks as the television.  The problem is that we use a different comparison when we answer this question.  The first time we compared $250 with the total price of $750.  Sure I want to save 33%.  But, $250 of $28,750 is . . . less than one percent.  Come on…who cares about less than one percent?

This is where our mind can get us.  Is $250 not important to save all the time? The research says no – it is all relative. Our decisions are not as consistent as we might think.

Now let’s see how this plays out visually. There is no way these colors look the same.  But they are.  Hold your finger over the line that divides them the blocks.  Crazy, huh?

The problem is the same as the $250 dilemma.  This picture was set up to fool you through comparison viewing.  You compared the color of the boxes to the colors of the backgrounds they are in.  And it fools the eye the same way the television/automobile cost fools the mind.  So in reality we do not think as rationally as we think we do. A great book by Dan Ariely called “Predictably Irrational” is something you might enjoy reading.

Hope you enjoyed your mind trip.