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Illusion of Control

Illusion of Control Definition

The Illusion of Control, named thus by the Psychologist Ellen Langer in 1975, shows that humans have the tendency to believe that we can control or influence anything, even those things that are totally random. We believe ourselves to be capable of creating positive outcomes or avoiding negative ones. This Illusion of Control allows us to avoid the anxiety that can be induced by situations and happenings that are actually out of our control. For example, in a casino, you will often see a player blowing on the dice or throwing them with a certain force in an attempt to obtain the results they want from their roll. The throw of the dice cannot be influenced, it is completely random, but these actions give the player the necessary illusion of control to feel comfortable in their situation. In 1975, psychologist Ellen Langer conducted an experiment where participants were given the opportunity to buy a lottery ticket for one dollar. The first group were given the option to choose their own lottery ticket whereas the second group were simply given one at random. Participants were then asked whether they would consider selling on their lottery ticket and, if so, what price they would ask for it. The results showed that the first group who had chosen their own tickets were less willing to sell it on and, if they were, they asked for a price that was at least four times more expensive than those from the second group were stating. This shows that the participants from the first group were affected by the Illusion of Control, believing their tickets to be of more value and more likely to be winning tickets than those from the group who were given their tickets at random. The Illusion of Control has numerous applications in business and web marketing. Giving your customers the impression that they are in control of any transactions will help to avoid the negative sentiments attached to incertitude and lack of control. For example, it will generate positive sentiments if you allow customers to select filters or options to enable them to take control of their searches and, during the purchase process, make it clear that they are able to make all decisions according to their own desires and wishes (by offering different payment methods, delivery options, etc.). The more you can give your customers control over certain elements of your site, the more you will incite their positive feeling of control and encourage conversions.

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