How an Illusion of Choice Is Created To Control Group Behavior

An illusion of choice is a presentation of choices which lead decision-makers to the same desired outcome for the provider(s) of those choices. In such cases, the ones who present multiple choices to a group they control are careful to ensure that any choice individuals within that group make moves them closer to a desired objective.

An illusion of choice is essential in preserving individuals’ inherent need to maintain a sense of autonomy when seeking to control their behavior. In considering themselves to be behaving at least semi-autonomously, the individuals whose choices are limited are less likely to abrasively reject the intended vision for their behavior.

This article outlines how an illusion of choice is manifested and implemented by those who seek to control group behavior.


Vilification of Alternative Thought and Behavior

Creating undesirable subgroups within the group being influenced or controlled is an important first step to establishing an illusion of choice. The implementation of propaganda to establish the boundaries of desirable behavior is seen as a critical task prior to providing individuals within that group with the illusion of choice.

Vilification of alternative thought and behavior involves portraying those who think or act differently from the dominant norms as deviant, dangerous, or immoral.

Some of the active ways that vilification can be performed are:

  • Using derogatory labels, stereotypes, or slurs to dehumanize or stigmatize the target group.
  • Spreading false or misleading information, rumors, or propaganda to discredit or demonize the target group.
  • Excluding, isolating, or discriminating against the target group in social, economic, or political spheres.
  • Threatening, harassing, or intimidating the target group with violence, coercion, or legal action.
  • Attacking, destroying, or confiscating the target group’s property, resources, or symbols.
  • Denying, undermining, or erasing the target group’s history, culture, or identity.

Some of the passive methods in which this is done are:

  • Creating and disseminating negative stereotypes and myths about the alternative group, such as that they are lazy, ignorant, violent, or immoral.
  • Excluding or marginalizing the alternative group from mainstream media, education, politics, or culture, thereby limiting their visibility and voice.
  • Denying or minimizing the achievements, contributions, or rights of the alternative group, while emphasizing their flaws, failures, or liabilities.
  • Imposing or reinforcing social norms and expectations that favor the dominant group and disadvantage the alternative group, such as norms of appearance, language, behavior, or values.
  • Ignoring or dismissing the grievances, demands, or perspectives of the alternative group, while validating and supporting those of the dominant group.

Vilification of alternative thought and behavior can have serious consequences for both the target group and the society as a whole. It can create fear, hatred, and division among people. It can suppress creativity, diversity, and innovation. It can violate human rights, dignity, and freedom. It can also lead to violence, oppression, and genocide.



Framing choices as beneficial or detrimental depending on the target audience is a common method to either steer people away from a choice or attract them to it.

One example of framing is the use of euphemisms or dysphemisms to describe the same choice in different ways. Euphemisms are mild or indirect expressions that replace harsh or unpleasant ones, while dysphemisms are the opposite.

For instance, a choice to end someone’s life can be framed as “euthanasia”, “mercy killing”, “assisted suicide”, or “putting out of their misery” to make it sound more acceptable, or as “murder”, “homicide”, “slaughter”, or “execution” to make it sound more reprehensible. By using these terms, the providers of the choice can influence how the individuals perceive the consequences and morality of their actions.

Another example of framing is the use of positive or negative incentives to motivate people to choose a certain option. Positive incentives are rewards or benefits that are offered for making a desired choice, while negative incentives are penalties or costs that are imposed for making an undesired choice.

For example, a choice to donate blood can be framed with a positive incentive by offering a free cookie, a t-shirt, or a lottery ticket, or a negative incentive by threatening a fine, a tax, or a social stigma. By using these incentives, the providers of the choice can manipulate how the individuals value the outcomes and risks of their actions.



Anchoring is a cognitive bias that influences how people perceive and evaluate the options available to them. Anchoring occurs when people rely too much on an initial piece of information (the anchor) and adjust their judgments insufficiently from that point. For example, if a person is presented with two choices of cars to buy, one for $20,000 and one for $25,000, they may anchor on the first price and perceive the second car as more expensive and less desirable, even if it has better features and quality.

Anchoring can be used to create an illusion of choice by manipulating the order, framing, and presentation of the choices. By strategically placing an anchor that is either too high or too low, the provider of the choices can influence how the other options are perceived and evaluated.

For instance, if a politician wants to persuade people to support a certain policy, they may present an extreme or unrealistic alternative as the first option, making the second option seem more reasonable and acceptable. Alternatively, they may present a very attractive or favorable option as the first one, making the second option seem less appealing or satisfactory.

Anchoring can also be used to create an illusion of choice by limiting the range and diversity of the choices. By narrowing down the choices to a few similar or compatible options, the provider of the choices can reduce the likelihood of people seeking out or considering other alternatives.


Decoy effect

Another method used to create an illusion of choice is the decoy effect. This is a phenomenon in which people’s preferences between two options are influenced by the introduction of a third, less attractive option. The third option, or the decoy, is designed to make one of the original options seem more appealing than the other, thus nudging people towards a specific choice.

The decoy effect can be used to manipulate group behavior by presenting a set of choices that are carefully crafted to favor a certain outcome.

For example, imagine a scenario in which a company wants its employees to choose between two health insurance plans: Plan A and Plan B. Plan A has lower premiums but higher deductibles, while Plan B has higher premiums but lower deductibles. The company prefers that its employees choose Plan B, because it would save them money in the long run. To achieve this, the company introduces a third option: Plan C, which has even higher premiums and deductibles than Plan B. Plan C is clearly inferior to both Plan A and Plan B, but it serves as a decoy that makes Plan B look more attractive by comparison. As a result, more employees are likely to choose Plan B, thinking that they are making a rational decision based on their own preferences.

The decoy effect illustrates how an illusion of choice can be created to control group behavior by manipulating the perception of alternatives. By adding a decoy option, the provider of choices can influence the preferences of individuals within a group and steer them towards a desired outcome, while maintaining their sense of autonomy and satisfaction.


Paradox of Choice

An illusion of choice can be created by presenting a large number of options that overwhelm the decision-makers. This is known as the paradox of choice, which states that having too many options can lead to anxiety, dissatisfaction, and regret, as well as reduced motivation and commitment.

By offering a plethora of choices, the providers of those choices can make the decision-makers feel more empowered and free, while also making them more likely to conform to the desired outcome. This is because the decision-makers may experience decision fatigue, information overload, and analysis paralysis, which make them less able to evaluate the options critically and rationally. They may also suffer from the fear of missing out, which makes them more susceptible to social influence and peer pressure.

Therefore, by creating a paradox of choice, the providers of those choices can manipulate the decision-makers into choosing what they want them to choose, without making them feel coerced or controlled. This is a subtle and effective way of creating an illusion of choice that influences group behavior.

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Disclaimer of Opinion: This article is presented only as opinion. It does not make any scientific, factual, or legal claims. Please critically analyze all claims made and independently decide on its validity.