How do we optimise our Call to Action with psychological techniques? One of the most effective seduction techniques towards your call to action is the Hobson + 1 technique.

Hobson who?
Thomas Hobson was a wealthy stable owner who would only allow people one choice when taking a horse. They could take the horse nearest the stable door or not go riding at all. For this reason, Hobson’s Choice has become a widely used expression for offering people only one choice between something or nothing. Hence, Hobson + 1 means offering two options to choose from.

So why use the Hobson + 1 technique?

Research has shown that when confronted with the Hobson’s Choice, we often go for the nothing rather than the something. Whereas, when an alternative choice is added, we use our mental energy to compare these choice options instead of considering the ‘nothing’ option. This makes it more likely that at least one of the two ‘somethings’ will be chosen.

For instance, the example below shows the extra option of ‘On wishlist’ below the call to action ‘Add to my shopping cart’. As a result, consumers will be more likely to click either of the two options instead of choosing nothing. 

For those who are not bored with reading this text AND are interested in why we choose between the two somethings rather than the nothing, please read the following:

Autonomy

Humans have three main psychological needs that motivate the self to initiate behavior that is essential for psychological health and well-being. These needs are competence, relatedness, and autonomy. When we feel related to others, feel competent in our daily work, and feel autonomy over our choices we should be psychologically healthy people.

So, what does this have to do with the Hobson + 1?
Give consumers the feelings of autonomy by giving them a choice. When you rob someone of their autonomy, this will elicit negative emotions and as a result people will not be motivated to come to action at all. More choice options lead to positive emotions due to the feeling of autonomy. However, too many options will elicit negative emotions due to the feeling of missing out. After all, being presented with many different options can make us feel like we’re missing out on many different experiences.
Besides having no autonomy, missing opportunity is something humans also try to avoid. This is called the mechanism of loss aversion*.

Solution: the perfect balance

So, given too many options, we experience more negative than positive emotions because we feel like we’re missing out. However, not having enough options to choose from robs us of our feeling of autonomy. Is it therefore always a compromise between autonomy and opportunity? No, there is a perfect balance. As the graph below depicts, our net feelings first rise and then fall with the number of given choices. That peak however, that is Hobson +1.

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*More information on loss aversion? You can read about this in the following science article: Kahneman, D., & Tversky, A. (1979). Prospect theory: An analysis of decision under risk. Econometrica, 47, 263-291.

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