First options are considered the best

July 5th, 2012 - 5:34 am ICT by IANS  

Washington, July 4 (IANS) People consistently prefer the options that come first, first in line, first college to offer acceptance, first ’salad’ on the menu - first is considered the best.

In three experiments, when making quick choices, participants consistently preferred people (sales persons, teams, criminals on parole) or consumer goods presented first as opposed to similar offerings in second and sequential positions.

Dana R. Carney, assistant professor of management, University of California School of Business and Mahzarin R. Banaji, professor of psychology, Harvard University, suggest that their findings may have practical applications in a variety of settings including in consumer marketing, the journal Public Library of Science ONE reports.

“The order of individuals performing on talent shows like American Idol. The order of potential companies recommended by a stockbroker. The order of college acceptance letters received by an applicant. All of these firsts have privileged status,” says Carney.

While there are sometimes rational reasons to prefer firsts, e.g. the first resume is designated on the top of the pile because that person wanted the job the most, Carney says the “first is best” effect suggests that firsts are preferred even when completely unwarranted and irrational, according to a California statement.

The study, based on experiments with 123 participants, found that especially in circumstances under which decisions must be made quickly or without much deliberation, preferences are unconsciously and immediately guided by those options presented first.

Carney contends the proven “primacy has power” theory may provide the best answers. The paper cites, “a preference for firsts has its origins in an evolutionary adaptation favouring firsts…”

For example, in most cases, humans tend to innately prefer the first people they meet: a mother, family members. In addition, those preferences are associated with what’s safe. Carney says the historic concept of the established “pecking order” also supports their findings that people find “first is best.”

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