Irrational Thinking: The Word ‘Natural’ Sells

According to Dan Ariely, we don't think that natural is more effective. We do, however, think synthetic has more side effects, particularly long-term side effects.

..And this kind of made me wonder about what – what is it, why do people think that running with shoes without soles is more logical. I actually met one of those guys, and I said, what about chairs? I said, well, why do you sit on a chair, wouldn't you be better on the rock?

Because he said, you know, the cavemen ran without soles, you know, why wouldnt we do the same thing.

SIEGEL: Natural floor – natural seating is what you were proposing, yeah.

Mr. ARIELY: That's right. So we tried to look at this. We went to the hospital and we asked people to make choices between all kinds of medications. And from time to time we would write this medication, you have two statins to reduce your cholesterol, this one is natural. We describe it in the same way, we just added the word natural.

The question is what would add this word do, what – how people process this information differently, and a few interesting things happened. First of all, people don't think in general that when medication is natural it's more effective. They don't think it's more powerful. They don't think it attacks the disease in a more directed way. They don't think any of this works.

But what they do thing is that it has less side effects, particularly in the long term. And we basically think of this as the caveman theory. What people do, is we think that our body is naturally attuned to the caveman era.

Read the entire Interview @ NPR

Dan Ariely is the best-selling author of The Upside of Irrationality: The Unexpected Benefits of Defying Logic at Work and at Home and Predictably Irrational, Revised and Expanded Edition: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions.