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Polish Pride Purchase

August 3, 2009

This Saturday, during and after a mustard-shopping excursion, I fell prey to at least six cognitive biases. Allow me to explain.

At the store, I was faced with a dizzying number of mustards. Then I spotted a mustard with a Polish name on it: Kosciusko. My train of thought ran this way: “Wow, mustard made by a Polish guy. I don’t know who he is, but he’s Polish, and I’m Polish, and I like Polish things. I bet this Polish mustard is fabulously delicious.”

Cognitive biases #1 and #2: Bias blind spot and anchoring. Polish = good = must buy. (Quick aside: I once bought Polish-made tires. They were affordable, and they were great.)

Cognitive bias #3: Extraordinarity bias. Holy mackerel, I’ve never seen Polish mustard before! Surely it must be fabulous!

full mustardWhen I got the mustard home, I looked at the back, expecting to find that it had been made in Hamtramck (Detroit’s Polishtown, where I lived as a baby) or perhaps imported directly from Poland. Instead I found the URL for Plochman’s, a Chicago-based company founded by a German emigre. A quick glance at their website left me with the impression that they started making this particular mustard in the mid-90s.

Sitting there, gaping at their sunny yellow site, I felt increasingly ridiculous: I am not a fresh-from-Poland emigre desperate for the flavors of home. I am the great-granddaughter of an immigrant who has been to Poland exactly once — and spoke the language so badly that I ordered, with great confidence and over the protests of the waitress, a mountain of pierogi.

Then, a new thought hit me: “Those Germans, they know from mustard. I bet this German mustard is going to be fabulously delicious on my turkey sandwich.” Which brings me to biases #4 and #5: Post-purchase rationalization and positive outcome bias.

So I made my turkey sammich, and you know what? That mustard is fabulously delicious.

But that’s not where this story ends. This morning, a closer look at the Plochman’s site revealed that they purchased the “popular” Kosciusko mustard in 1985. I swear my heart swelled with Polish pride. Cognitive bias #6: Hindsight bias, a/k/a the “I-knew-it-all-along” effect.

p.s. for the food nerds:  So, that Kosciusko guy? Not a mustard-maker, not involved in any sort of food-related industry. He was an 18th-century military commander in his native Poland and the fledgling United States. Fortified Philadelphia in 1776, built a bunch of forts along the Canadian border, went home to defend Poland from the Russians in 1789.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. Crystal permalink*
    August 12, 2009 7:56 pm

    Sounds yummy even though it’s chock full of bias. Terrific post.

    • Nicole permalink
      August 29, 2009 8:39 am

      I am also third generation Polish and I thought this was a great little story.

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