Penn researcher Jessica Fishman has always been fascinated by what sways decision-making.
“As a teenager, one word could dramatically influence whether I wanted to do something,” she says. “I remember once, when my dad was excited to serve his family a fish dinner, he proudly announced that the fish cost very little. For him, this was good because food was hard to come by when he was growing up. But for me, his description of the ‘cheap’ fish signaled it was of little value or even undesirable rather than a good deal. It immediately decreased my interest in eating that food. We now know a lot more about the types of messages that can backfire.”