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Decision Science News hits a meme

Filed in Research News
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In July 2006, DSN writers Dan Goldstein and Dominique Goldstein described in a Harvard Business Review article titled “Profiting from the Long Tail” a behavioral phenomenon in which Netflix customers let highbrow movies sit around unwatched while lowbrow films get watched and returned right away. They use as examples “The Seventh Seal” vs. “Meet the Fockers” and draw an analogy to neglected gym memberships.

Skip ahead 6 weeks and Newsweek blogger Brad Stone has called this “Netflix Guilt” in a recent blog post. Chez Stone it’s “City of God” vs. “The 40 Year Old Virgin” and the gym membership analogy … remains a gym membership analogy.

Jet back to 1999, before Netflix even existed, and the highbrow / lowbrow film choice problem is examined in an article by decision researchers Read, Loewenstein, and Kalyanaraman.

ADDENDUM: This just discovered a few hours after the original post. In 1994 academic blogger Henry Farrell called this “The Netflix Fallacy“. Discoveries, discoveries in the long tail of cites.


Goldstein, D. G., & Goldstein, D. C. (2006). Profiting from the long tail. Harvard Business Review, 84(6), 24-28.

Read, D., Loewenstein, G., & Kalyanaraman, S. (1999). Mixing virtue and vice: Combining the immediacy effect and the diversification heuristic. Journal of Behavioral Decision Making, 12, 257-273.

Thanks to Prof. Suzanne Shu for the find.

photo credit.