Which Pug Would You Pick?

Pick a number from 1 to 5, how do you decide?

Photo by Jena Saul
















I always have fun giving out the candy on Halloween.  Instead of a boring, “Happy Halloween, take one” and “Thank you” exchange with the kids, I do some non-scientific decision-making research. For the past several years, I told the kids that if they can count to 3 they can get 3 candies, but if they can count to 3 in a foreign language they can get 5 candies.  They are allowed to repeat the same foreign language that one of the friends in the group has already used.  Every year, there were kids who didn’t want to copy a friend’s uno dos tres (Spanish), so they would try ichi ni san (Japanese), or echad shtaim shalosh (Hebrew).  I always thought it was funny that some kids thought it was cheating to copy their friends.

This year I decided to ask them to pick a number from 1-5. The unknown rules this year were: if you pick 5, you get 5 candies, 4 for 4 candies, but the magic 3 got them 3 from each bowl for a total of 6 candies, 2 was 2 from each of two bowls, and 1 got to pick one at a time for a total of 5.  No one would get less than 4. As soon as the first kid said 5 and got 5, the others chimed in with 5 to each get 5 candies.  However, like the kids who didn’t want to copy in past years, one kid asked, what will happen if I say 3? When she found out that she actually got 6 candies, the others in her group were astounded. They went running out to their parents to tell them about the number picking challenge.

One other funny thing happened.  A few of the kids remembered the option of counting to 3 in a foreign language, and they came prepared this year.  One teen learned how to count in 4 languages!  I did give him 6 candies.  That was impressive!

For you researchers out there, my control question as a comparison with the number choosers, I told several groups that they could take as many candies as they wished, yet the most common take was 3. Companies should stop being afraid of offering employees what they want, because their requests will be more modest than you think. Proviso: one child grabbed two handfuls, so you will have at least a few employees who ask for more than you expect.

Now we get to the heart of the decision-making discussion.  Every year there are kids who grab a handful from the nearest bag, and others who carefully select their candies.  There are also kids who cannot decide which candies to choose and actually fall behind their group as they investigate every available choice of candy.  One child actually said that she was bad at deciding what she wants, and asked for help (which I did not give, but I did advise to close her eyes while choosing).

Sometimes there are rules to follow, and sometimes there are rules to break. Most of the time we don’t know the rules of the game of “life.” Sometimes the obvious choice may not the best possible choice.  And sometimes there just too many choices for people who have trouble deciding.

At LS&A architecture and interiors, we have a decision-making questionnaire that we give every new client so that we can get a feel for how each of them chooses and makes decisions.  Here are some tips that we have found can help our clients make decisions easily and quickly:

  1. Never give a client more than 3 options (but be open to creating hybrids of those options to create another 2). If you present more than 3 options, it gets harder and harder for the client to decide on a favorite.
  2. Never give only one option. We make ourselves come up with a second option even if we feel that only one option will work best.
  3. Each option should be clearly defined.  Sometimes we name each option (such as “open book”  “toy on a string” or “leaning tower” so that the discussion can be about concepts and not just 1,2,3, or A,B,C

That’s it for now.  I’ve got to start planning my next Halloween research project!

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