What Is Vividness Bias? | Definition & Examples
Vividness bias is the tendency to focus on certain attributes of a decision or situation while overlooking other elements that are equally or more important.
Vividness bias can lead to suboptimal decisions and influence our judgment in different contexts, such as job negotiations, responses to advertising, or choices about a course of study.
What is vividness bias?
Vividness bias is a phenomenon in social psychology in which the most evocative information dominates our thinking and greatly influences our decision-making. In general, the “vividness” of information is the degree to which it is emotionally engaging, concrete, imagery-producing, and personal.
In other words, vividness is essentially the information that is most persuasive or that stands out the most. Recently, vividness bias has become popular specifically in the context of job negotiations, where vividness highlights our concerns to seek status and prestige. Because of vividness bias, we tend to “fall for” the flashier option and are often led to decisions and choices that do not fully align with our priorities and values.
What causes vividness bias?
Vividness bias is believed to be caused by the so-called vividness effect. Here, “vivid” information inherently influences our judgment more than non-vivid information. Vivid messages are thought to be more effective in changing our opinion or behavior. This is because vivid information is more readily available in our memory—we tend to pay more attention to it and recall it more frequently.
Vividly designed communications usually incorporate images, metaphors, and concrete, colorful language. These are more impactful than abstract messages and ideas, like statistics or charts, because the latter fail to draw or hold our attention.
Studies suggest that vividness does not affect persuasion, but rather what people think would persuade others, regardless of their own reactions.
Vividness bias example
Vividness bias can explain why we’re more drawn to the fun or bold aspects when faced with an option, such as which company to work for.
How to avoid vividness bias
Vividness bias can harm negotiations, so it’s important to have a strategy in place to avoid it. The following steps can help you do so:
- Be conscious of your priorities. We can’t stop and think about every little decision we make in our daily lives. However, before entering a negotiation or making a decision that can have a major impact on our lives (such as where to study or which job to choose), it’s worth pausing for a moment to think about what is most important to you. Setting our priorities straight beforehand can shield us from vividness bias.
- Avoid the pitfall of social comparison. We are often tempted to compare ourselves to others, particularly to individuals that society considers successful. This is part of human nature. However, when we compare ourselves to people who have different values to us, we are bound to fall for vividness bias. We might accept the position that comes with the flashier title or expensive electronics, when in reality what we want is a company culture that aligns with our values.
- Reflect on your choice. Once you have made up your mind, look at the factors you are most drawn to. Are these your true priorities or vivid factors? Thinking through your choice will help you pinpoint vividness bias. Taking a moment to reflect can also help us avoid other types of bias that influence decision-making, like anchoring bias and the availability heuristic.
Other types of research bias
Frequently asked questions about vividness bias
- Why is vividness bias important?
Vividness bias is important because it can affect our decisions and negotiations. It causes us to assign more weight to vivid information, like a perception of prestige, rather than other factors that, upon greater reflection, are more important to us. As a result, we get distracted and lose sight of our goals and priorities.
- What is a real-life example of vividness bias?
A real-life example of vividness bias can often be observed in the outcome of business negotiations. Price is usually the most vivid information, while other aspects, such the complexity of implementation, or the time needed to complete the project, might be ignored.
- What is the vividness effect in communication?
The vividness effect in communication is the persuasive impact that vivid information is thought to have on opinions and behaviors. In other words, information that is vivid, concrete, dramatic, etc., is more likely to capture our attention and sway us into believing or doing one thing rather than another. On the contrary, information that is dull or abstract is not so effective. The vividness effect relates to the vividness bias.
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