Saturday, 26 January 2013

How Popular is your new phone?

Ever bought a new car or got a new phone and suddenly noticed loads of other people did too. Everywhere you go you see the same car or phone being used by someone else.
Psychologists call this the Observational Selection Bias. It occurs when we suddenly start noticing things we didn't notice that much before and then wrongly assume that the frequency has increased i.e. that these cars or phones are more popular or selling better than they really are.
Pregnant women often report seeing a lot more pregnant women around them, though statistically the number of pregnant women won't have changed much.
Once we select an item in our mind, for whatever reason, we start noticing it more often.
This is pretty harmless, except that we believe the increased frequency of the item is true. We can then wrongly assume that one type of car is out selling another or one type of phone is now the market leader, when neither is the case.
So next time you get something new and start to think loads of other people have made the same purchase as you, think again. That latest phone you got may not be as popular as you think.
As an aside, I wonder if that played a role in people buying shares in Apple? If I had an iPhone I might start to notice more iPhones than HTC or Samsung and assume iPhone sales are holding up better than they actually are

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