The Focusing Effect is the way in which the human mind places too much emphasis on certain limited factors when making decisions. Instead of taking in to account all the many perhaps more important but less distinctive factors when evaluating something or making a choice, we only recognise and place value on a few mainstream or more sensationalised pieces of information. This causes an imbalance in judgement and often leads to misinformed evaluations.
In a study carried out by Schkade & Kahneman (1998) where people were asked whether Californians or Mid-Westerners led happier lives, people overwhelmingly assumed and stated that it was Californians. They were, of course, falling victim to the Focusing Effect as they were basing this decision on well-documented and perhaps even cliche ideals such as better weather, living by the sea, more relaxed, outdoor lifestyle, etc. However, in reality, this is not the case as there is no discernible difference between the happiness of residents in these two areas. By putting emphasis on a limited number of factors, other more important determinants of happiness were overlooked, such as crime rates and safety from natural disasters.
In the commercial arena, the Focusing Effect is often utilised as a selling technique. Knowing that people are in fact more likely to accept the merit of a certain product you are trying to sell if that merit is based on only a few well-chosen factors, means that web marketing strategies can be developed accordingly. Consumers are looking for products that they believe will better their lives in some way and are receptive to being informed of the positive and glamourised aspects of a product, event or service. Focusing on only a few key components of the product you are trying to sell, concentrating on the most widely recognisable or most distinctive features, is an effective way of converting the Focusing Effect in to an affective marketing tool.