684595491_1abed98c21_bRecently, I started thinking about things that look easy but are, in fact, deceptively challenging. For example, what about those 30-second clips on HGTV or DIY that attempt to teach viewers how to perform at-home projects such as installing a grout-tile shower “in only three simple steps”—like it’s ever that easy. You watch the clip, determine you can do it, rush to the nearest HomeDepot to purchase materials, and get all revved up to face what will, ten to one, end in a mess. Anyone ever done that?

Or how about this…Recently, I asked a room of 100 how many could two-finger whistle (like a New Yorker hailing a cab)? Out of 100, only four could do it. Does that surprise you? Even a little bit? Well…yes and no, right?

The thing is, it looks pretty simple to do, but odds are, you can’t do it yourself. It’s more than sticking two fingers in your mouth, blowing, and voilà—you’re whistling—right? For instance, if you Google “How to whistle with two fingers,” you’ll find instructions like “Push your tongue back into your mouth until your first knuckle reaches your bottom lips.” The point being, it’s more involved than would be reasonably anticipated. There’s a learning curve.

In general, people tend to assign more value to tasks they consider complex, and thus, requiring the services of an expert. However, people also tend to presume the complexity of a task is, in part, dependent upon how long it takes for the job to be completed. In other words, one assumes tasks that take longer must be more complex, and thus, more valuable. To the contrary, if a task is completed quickly—especially when it was expected to have taken longer—one can’t help but wonder, “Why did I pay so much for that?” Followed by, “I could’ve just done it myself.”


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Imagine, for instance, your car is making a terrible racket and so you decide it’s time to schedule a trip to the service center. You watch as a technician pops the hood, grabs a wrench, tightens a single bolt, and then, as though it were nothing, declares, “That oughta do it!” You think, “Wow, that was easy.” Then you get a bill with a pretty fat charge for labor and you’re literally gasping for air.

Or how about this? If a house is listed for sale today and it immediately sells tomorrow, it’s easily assumed the work of the real estate agent must have been quite simple, and thus, of lesser value. Certainly it couldn’t have been overly complex, right? “I should’ve done it myself and saved the commission,” one might groan. However, much like whistling with two fingers, there’s more to it than that.

Pablo Picasso once said, “The sketch may have taken me five minutes, but the learning took me 30 years.” The point being, simply because a task is completed quickly doesn’t strip it of its complexity or value.

Did you know that when something occurs right before us more quickly than expected, our human brains become more susceptible to a form of illogical thinking known as causal reductionism (or over-simplification)?

Simply put, causal reductionism occurs when it is assumed that there’s a single, simple cause of an outcome when in reality it may have been caused by any number of things?

It reasons: Y followed after X, so X caused Y—plain and simple. It fails to consider, however, the possibility that A, B, and C, which it either did not notice or did not understand, may have been the true cause of Y.

“I noticed my neighbors placed their home on the market last week and it sold within a few days above their asking price. Therefore, if I place my home for sale on the market, it too will sell fast and for more than my asking price, right?” That’s causal reductionism and we’re playing right into it when we post stuff onto Facebook or Instagram such as the following:

  1. Can’t believe it happened again! We sold 123 Happy St. for $15K ABOVE asking price!
  2. SOLD—before I even listed it! What’s next???
  3. Whoa! 100+ showings in only ONE week! #ThisIsCrazy #Let’sDoThis #TheMarketIsHOTTT
  4. And just like that… Another home SOLD in less than 24 hours! #OnAStreak #InStride

Now clearly, posts like these are purely an attempt to tie oneself to a favorable outcome—to create social proof. The trouble is, though, they merely report about what happened. There’s a fundamental difference between reporting on a result and being the reason for it. When a consumer sees posts like these, what are they left to think? Well, perhaps this? “My goodness, this market is crazy. I’ll bet I could list my home by myself and sell it in a breeze!”

True social proof marketing shows the consumer that results follow with your involvement. To the contrary, proclaiming over-simplified results only shows the consumer that they don’t need you. Bottom line, your marketing should communicate (tastefully—try not to sound like an arrogant braggart), “If me, then results.”

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Photo by the talented Stefan Bucher


Jason Pantana, Realtor, Speaker, NashvilleJason guides real estate professionals through current and emerging trends in consumer behavior, sales and marketing, and entrepreneurship. To invite Jason to speak or to schedule a consultation, visit: www.JasonPantana.com/Contact