Distinction Bias: Why You Make Terrible Life Choices

There I was, looking at an enormous wall of television screens. Each one flashed the exact same scene  —  a beautiful flower slowly blooming to reveal each petal, pistil, and stamen in exquisite super high definition detail. It was downright sexy. But now it was time to make my choice.

Distinction Bias: Why You Make Terrible Life Choices

Would I buy the $400 television within my budget or would I splurge on the $500 deluxe model that somehow helped me understand plant biology in a new, more intimate way?

Though every cone and rod in my eyeballs begged me to buy the better one, my more sensible instinct kicked in. “Your budget is $400, remember?” Sighing, I bought the crappy model and braced for a life of media mediocrity.

But then, a strange thing happened. When I fired up the new set at home, it looked fine. Better than fine in fact. It looked great! I couldn’t figure out why I even wanted the pricier model in the first place.

Why the change of heart?

Among a host of brain biases, I fell victim to distinction bias — a tendency to over-value the effect of small quantitative differences when comparing options. In the store, I was in comparison mode, evaluating the TVs side by side; hypersensitive to the smallest differences. But at home, there was just one TV and