Clustering illusion

Theory explained by Sander Volbeda and written by Thomas Gilovich

We all have that experience when we thought that we had found the perfect match for us after spending a few hours together with a completely strange person. You found that person quite interesting and exciting to be with because you guys have a lot in common. Both of you might like the same movies, the same dishes and maybe the same holiday destinations. So you quickly jump to the conclusion that ‘this time it is different because you see a lot in common with that particular person.’ Even though you call this entire situation a coincidence, could that really be a coincidence? I hate to crack the bad news here, but think about your ex! Didn’t you once think that person is your ideal match because you had something in common? You like a lot of different things and so does every random person in the world. You try to justify your choice just because you see some similar behavioral pattern in some random person can’t be considered as a great decision. What exactly is the reason that influences us to make such decisions? It’s the work of the Clustering Illusion. Clustering Illusion is a tendency of human psychology in which we tend to find patterns in completely random information where there is no pattern in reality. In the example above, if you have studied a bigger sample size, which means a group of individuals, you may notice that the similar behavioral pattern you had tracked with the first individual is not a coincidence. Somehow our brains have been designed to recognize patterns in the process of decision making. This tendency of human psychology results in two types of errors in day-to-day decision-making. Error 1: Perceiving patterns that really don’t exist Error 2: Ignoring patterns that really are

The famous Monte Carlo Casino Example

This famous incident occurred at the Monte Carlo Casino is a great real world example of how cluster illusion had worked to the disadvantage of many players on a day in 1913. There, the ball had landed on black in consecutive 26 times in a game of roulette. Seeing the ball had hit on black for quite a few times, people who were present there that night thought that the ball was bound to hit on red the next. But for 26 times, their prediction was wrong. People assumed that black and red outcome should be ‘even’ as it was the common pattern they have experienced most of the time before, therefore most of them lost their money, betting against ‘black.’

With every example above, it’s evident that the clustering effect has a direct bearing on our decision making. That’s why marketers around the world are concerned about this bias in order to use it to their favor towards Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO)).

The implications of Cluster Illusion for Conversion Rate Optimization

Employee patterns in your website to communicate the functions

As the cluster illusion presently in action in human psychology, it can’t be neglected in designing. Refine the design of your website to be more user-centric. You can employ patterns to communicate the functions and content with clarity. For example, do not neglect established web conventions as they are always expected by users in order to create patterns.

Employ patterns to ensure consistent user experience

Embed recognizable patterns into your website to enhance user experience. Recognizable patterns have the ability to reduce cognitive load because it helps in automatic decision making; therefore can create a persuasive influence on your target audience. For example, keep the navigation aligned with the common convention without major changes. Also be consistent in the way how you present product descriptions as that too can decide how well your customers interact with you.

Analyze user journeys to refine your website

The analysis should cater both qualitative aspects as well as quantitative aspects of consumer decision making. See how easily or without much effort can the users complete user journeys. See the patterns available to facilitate their courses of actions in decision making. Validate your changes by performing A/B as well as multivariate testing to ensure everything is in place.

Wrap Up

Clustering illusion is a bias in human psychology in which people tend to see patterns where there are no patterns present in reality. People seek patterns as they facilitate recognizing things quite easily as well as patterns assist with automatic decision making. Knowing this psychological tendency can be used for your advantage in digital marketing towards Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO).

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References

The references contain experiments and studies that prove this bias is there.

1. Subjective probability: A judgment of representativeness
2. Methods for Discovering Cognitive Biases in a Visual Analytics Environment

Sources

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