Book Review: You Are What You Choose

You are What You ChooseI keep thinking that it’s only a matter of time before my trips to the mall start resembling Tom Cruise’s experience in his movie Minority Report.  In the movie, they use iris scan technology to identify their customer.  But they haven’t quite mastered the art of engaging our hero enough to get him to actually walk into the store and buy something.

Too bad the advertisers portrayed in the movie didn’t read “You are What You Choose: The Habits of Mind That Really Determine How We Make Decisions.”  If they had, they might have made an appeal to Tom Cruise’s character that interested him, instead of just randomly inserting his name wherever it was convenient.

What’s Behind Our Choices?

“You Are What You Choose” was written by two sociology professors from Duke University — Scott De Marchi and James T. Hamilton — who were collaborating on a paper about how to detect when corporate polluters were under-reporting what is actually coming out of their smokestacks. But something unexpected came out of their work, an observation about the different ways each of us approach decision-making. And this is what made this book interesting.

While books like “Buyology” and “7- Triggers to Yes” talk about how people make choices, they don’t really get into what drives different people to have such different styles of decision making.

But in “You Are What You Choose,” Hamilton and de Marchi discuss the six core traits that shape our decisions. The six TRAITS attributes are:

  1. Time:  Do you have a shorter term view or a longer-term view of life? Scoring high on the “Time” trait means that you forgo short-term gain for long-term value.
  2. Risk:  A lower score on the risk attribute means that you are more risk averse, while a higher score means that you can tolerate more risk.
  3. Altruism:  To what degree are your decisions driven by your focus on the welfare of others? A low score means that you may simply have a lack of action or low interest in charitable activities and a high score means that you are “other centered.”
  4. Information:  If you are an information junkie, then you probably score high on this trait.  A lower score means that you do not seek out as much information to drive your decision-making.
  5. MeToo:  A high score on this attribute puts you in a sort of “status-seeker” category. Think in terms of “keeping up with the Joneses.” A low score means that you are more individualistic about your choices and not so influenced by what others are doing or not doing.
  6. Stickiness:  This attribute measures what role loyalty plays in how you decide. A high score in this area points to being loyal to a brand or value while a low score means that you can switch easily to an alternative. Think about being in a restaurant and having the waitress as “Is Pepsi OK?” If you score high on Stickiness and love Coke, you might answer “NO! Get me a Coke!”

What’s Your Decision-Making Profile?

In order to really appreciate these traits, the authors have created a series of questions where you can do a self-assessment of your decision-making.  If you’d like to get a flavor of what’s in this book, I’ve set up a survey using QuestionPro, to let you take the self-assessment test that appears in the book.

Your responses to the survey are completely anonymous. You do not need to identify yourself in any way.  This is just for your own knowledge.

Start the survey to self-assess your decision-making profile here:  At the end of each set of 5 questions, you will be re-directed to a “spotlight report” where you can see how your answers compare with other readers’ answers. Be sure to scroll down to the bottom of each report page to see your overall score for each attribute. You might want to print or save each spotlight report page for future reference.

If you have problems, you can take each of the TRAITS profiles separately: TIME, RISK, ALTRUISM, INFORMATION, meTOO, STICKINESS.

Now that you have your own profile, see if you can profile your friends and customers and predict what they’ll choose and how they make decisions.

How I Came to Read This Book

From time to time, publishers will send Small Business Trends emails featuring a series of their books. I like this process because it tells me what new books are coming out — and I actually get to pick review copies of books that I think you will be most interested in for review. “You Are What You Choose” was one of these newly-released books I thought you’d be  interested in.

Who Should Get This Book

I recommend “You Are What You Choose” for anyone who is involved in sales and marketing — no matter what size business you work in. You will not only get a better idea of what motivates buying decisions, you’ll be able to better structure your marketing message to attract more ideal customers.  Get this book.

Ivana Taylor Ivana Taylor is the Book Editor for Small Business Trends. She is responsible for directing the site’s book review program and manages the team of professional book reviewers. She also spearheads the annual Small Business Book Awards. Ivana publishes DIYMarketers, where she shares daily do-it-yourself marketing tips, and is co-author of "Excel for Marketing Managers."