Science Scope

Science knows which cereal you're going to buy

Posting in Energy

You might think that you have control over what you buy, but you'd be mostly wrong. Consumers tend to select whatever's right in front of them.

The next time you go to the store, pay attention to the long lines of horizontally stacked products on the shelves. Depending on how tall you are, different products fall into your main field of vision. What are you looking directly at, when you look at the cereal shelf, and what do you have to look up or down to see? Research on consumer behavior has confirmed that the stuff in the middle is far morel likely to wind up in your cart, than what's on the top and bottom shelves.

The research, done at Concordia University and published in the Journal of Consumer Research, used eye tracking devices to see how what we look at impacts what we buy. They focused on all sorts of products: vitamins, snack bars, and energy drinks. What they found is that in the final five seconds before you decide which product to toss in your basket, your gaze naturally focuses on the central shelf, or central option in the display. Which makes you far more likely to grab that object, than the one above it.

This doesn't just happen at the store either. Think of any time you're presented with a row of choices. Netflix, Amazon.com, even news websites often have the horizontal bar. You're still more likely to choose the movie, book or story in the middle. When presented with a row of chairs people still picked the one in the middle.

Consumers might think that they have far more control over this. You go to the store to get Cheerios and you buy Cheerios. But maybe what actually happens is that you go to the store to get cereal, and Cheerios are in the center. You could be missing some delicious amazing cereal just above or below it.

The next time you go to the store, lead author Onur Bodur hopes you'll think about his research. "By using this newfound knowledge that visual attention is naturally drawn to the center of a display, consumers can consciously train themselves to make a more thorough visual scan of what's on offer," he said in the press release.

Via: Eurekalert

Image: waitscm / Flickr

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Rose Eveleth

Contributing Editor

Contributing Editor Rose Eveleth is a freelance writer, producer and designer based in Brooklyn, New York. Her work has appeared in Scientific American, OnEarth, Discover, New York Times, Story Collider and Radiolab. She holds degrees from the University of California, San Diego and New York University. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure