It is generally accepted that you never forget the first love, that the first child will always be more appreciated and that the first workmate that you spend some time with will become a good friend over time. That holds true because our brain decodes information in a sequential manner rather than a simultaneous one. Therefore, both in people and some animals, the first experience has a cognitive advantage. A recent study performed by a team of researchers from Berkley and Harvard, led by Dana Carney and Mahrazin Banaji shows that, even though there is no rational reason for us to prefer the first experience to the following ones, that happens because of the way we perceive the world.
The first experience is always easier remembered, creates a stronger bond, has a stronger persuasive power and influence on perceptions, and the memories related to it trigger more powerful reactions. And people are not the only ones that react like this. A study performed on chicken showed that a new-born chicken got attached to the first object that he saw, no matter what it was. When it comes to debates, most of the times the first argument has a more persuasive power than the following ones.
In order to study this cognitive pattern in humans, two researchers have designed a series of three studies: the first one showed consumers’ bias to buy from the first seller they met, even if they received similar offers from the other ones too. In the second study, people preferred the first product in a series of two, when instructed to chose fast, although there was no obvious reason to do so. In the third experiment, people were shown pictures of two convicted criminals (Jim and Jon) and were asked to choose the one that was more likely to be bailed out. Most of the participants chose the first one and that shows that this bias is present even when the options have a negative load.
Marketing tips: whenever you want to push a certain product, make sure your customers see it first in a series of similar products. If there are just slight differences between the products and the customers have to decide fast, chances are they will prefer the first one right away!