Rule of 3

The “power of three” has had significant meaning throughout the past. The primary colors (red, green, and blue), The Three Stooges, The Nina, the Pinta, and the Santa Maria, and the top three qualifiers at the Olympics get a metal. I could go on and on, but it has been shown in literature that the “rule of three that things that come in threes are inherently funnier, more satisfying, or more effective than other numbers of things”. (1)

Have you ever heard of the jam study done by the Columbia professor in 2009? Her study set up a tasting booth in a grocery store with six different jams. 40% of the customers stopped to taste while 30% of those bought some. A week later, they set up the exact same way, but this time with twenty-four different jams. 60% of the customers stopped to taste but only 30% bought some! (2) What does that have to do with dentistry? It shows that having a bunch of choices seems appealing (40% vs 60% stopped to taste) but having too many choices makes customers 10x less likely to buy. How do we use this info? We lean on the “power of 3” suggestion to help our patients make decisions on what service they will buy from us.

For example, if a patient comes in with a large carious lesion on a posterior molar, they have three options to decide from: do nothing, extract, or get a root canal followed by a crown. I’m sure you have heard yourself give these three options to people before I even wrote this article. But there are more choices than just those three. You could put Dycal and Vitrebond over the canal and hope that a large amalgam restoration will hold up for multiple years. But while that is a possibility, it doesn’t seem right to give that as a fourth option to your patient, as it would confuse them even more.

Therefore, in conclusion, only present three choices at a time. If the patient is searching for something more specific, only then should you show them a deep selection of what you have to offer. Use the “power of three” to help you make a better dentist and future practitioner!

  1. "How to Use the "Rule of Three" to Create Engaging Content - Copyblogger". Retrieved 2015-06-01.

  2. “When choice is demotivating: can one desire too much of a good thing?” Sheena S. Iyengar and Mark Lepper, 2000

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