From stock market to sports and even winning the lottery, it's in our nature to predict who or what will come out on top. But, sometimes we can't see the forest for the trees.
According to a new study in the Journal of Consumer Research, people are more likely to make a prediction about something when it is grouped in a large category of similar items.
"One factor that can contribute to a person's flawed judgment is categorization," write authors Mathew S. Isaac (Seattle University) and Aaron R. Brough (Utah State University). "When making a prediction, we can become distracted by how all of the various possibilities are grouped. The basic question of our research is, 'Can the size of the category make an outcome seem more or less likely to occur?'"
Offering insight on how category size can impact a person's perception of risk and probability, study results can help businesses and policy makers better communicate risk-related information. For example, when crafting health-related messages, grouping a highly preventable disease such as lung cancer with a large group of other potential health risks could increase the perceived risk of contracting lung cancer and, in turn, persuade people to visit the doctor for regular screenings.
"While organizing our world into groups or categories is an incredibly efficient way to process complex information, we sometimes have to focus on the individual outcome that we are trying to predict," the authors conclude.