The Distinction Bias

The tendency to view two options as more dissimilar when evaluating them together than separately.

Understanding the differences between joint evaluation and separate evaluation is important because we often make decisions by comparing options—but we typically experience options in isolation. This creates a mismatch in which the best decision may not provide the best experience. For example, when televisions are displayed next to each other on the sales floor, the difference in quality between two very similar, high-quality televisions may appear great. A consumer may pay a much higher price for the higher-quality television, even though the difference in quality is imperceptible when the televisions are viewed in isolation. Because the consumer will likely be watching only one television at a time, the lower-cost television would have provided a similar-quality viewing at a lower cost.