Our judgment regarding the costs and benefits of items is often significantly influenced by a feeling evoked by pictures or words not directly relevant to the actual cost or benefit. For some, the good or bad feeling they have just prior to making a decision is a bias that influences that decision and renders it irrational. For example, many people are willing to pay more for airline travel insurance that covers death from just terrorist acts than they would pay for insurance that covers death from all possible causes (Gardner 2008: p. 73). The expression "terrorist acts" has strong negative emotive content, which apparently leads many people to an irrational willingness to pay more for less coverage.
The affect bias is at work in attracting people to detoxify their bodies with colonic irrigations and other unnecessary "cleansings" of organs that do not need cleansing. The idea of poison arouses fear and leads many people to an emotionally based decision to undergo pointless detoxification treatments. Similar tactics are used in the advertising of “feminine hygiene” products to remove “offensive odors” from “down there.”
When Newt Gingrich, former Speaker of the House of Representatives, wanted to arouse sympathy for the Republican Party prior to the 2006 November elections he created a new political enemy: “San Francisco left-wing activists.” If you haven’t heard of these folks, they are the ones who have “San Francisco left-wing values.” These are people with liberal values who run with the elite media. They want to raise taxes and either “cut and run” or “run and hide” from Iraq. They represent “the failed policies of higher taxes, more regulation and bloated bureaucratic structures of the past.” They support policies of appeasement and defeatism. According to Mr. Gingrich, “If you think you have too much money in your family budget, then you have a party to vote for, because Democrats will gladly raise your taxes shifting your money from your family to Washington bureaucrats.” And, “if you want to go back to high taxes, high interest rates, high inflation, slower economic growth, more unemployment, fewer savings, shorter vacations and more bureaucracy, then you have a party in the Democrats.” Shorter vacations? Yes, according to Mr. Gingrich, the Democrats can even shorten your vacation if elected. That’s how evil and powerful those San Francisco liberal, radical, left-wing Democrats are. (Carroll 2011: Kindle Locations 932-941).Finally, music is one of the great mood changers. Changing someone's mood is often the quickest way to get them to agree to an idea they might otherwise find boring or unpleasant. If I am in a grouchy mood and you want to bias me in the direction of some plan of action, playing Mark Knopfler's "Wild Theme" from Local Hero will usually do the trick. And those of us with some life experience have known a few Proustian moments involving agreeable odors or tastes that not only triggered pleasant memories and feelings but also made us susceptible to accepting an irrational proposition or two.
Gardner, Daniel. 2008. The Science of Fear: Why We Fear the Things We Shouldn't--and Put Ourselves in Greater Danger. Dutton.