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O Behave! Issue 13

O Behave!'s one year anniversary edition, bringing you the latest research in psychology and behavioural economics.

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O Behave! Issue 13

  1. 1. O BEHAVE! ANNIVERSARY EDITION Issue 13 • April 2015
  2. 2. O Behave! One Year On 3 How Obama Nudged Us to Vote 4 Bias of the Month 5 Could a Necklace Change Your Behaviour? 6 When One is More Powerful than Many 7 Your Personality: Fixed or Flexible? 8 Nudgestock 3: Richard Thaler 9 Real Life Nudge of the Month 10 Upcoming Events 10 CONTENTS
  3. 3. It’s now been one year since we first published O Behave!, launching with our Kahneman edition. In the last year, we’ve published twelve issues and had over fifty thousand views – and Daniel Kahneman has gone from our cover star to judge of our Nudge Awards! O BEHAVE! ONE YEAR ON We hope you’ve enjoyed and will continue to enjoy our monthly round-up of interesting new research in behavioural science, and we want to hear from you! Is there anything we should do more or less of? Are there any particular topics you’d like us to cover? You can leave feedback for us anonymously here. Best wishes, Ciosa and Juliet
  4. 4. HOW OBAMA NUDGED US TO VOTE With the General Election only around the corner, it made us wonder whether any of the parties had used behavioural economics to nudge us to vote for them. If they wanted a masterclass in how to do this, all they needed to do was look at Obama’s 2012 campaign which had behavioural economics at its core. Obama hired some of the worlds leading behavioural economists such as Richard Thaler, Robert Cialdini and Craig Fox and developed what became known as the “Consortium of Behavioural Scientists (COBS)”. This team of behavioural scientists offered crucial input into the campaign and even helped create scripts for Obama’s speeches. Here are a few examples of how they used insights from the behavioural sciences to not only get Americans to vote, but to get them to vote Democrat. Make salient one’s self-identity as a voter We have multiple “selves” and “identities” and each self/identity can be more salient at different times. We also have a constancy bias, where we want to act consistently with our identity. If we do not, we feel a discomfort known as cognitive dissonance which occurs when we behave (or don’t behave) in a way that is contrary to our beliefs. It is a state we all try to avoid. When Obama campaigners knocked on doors, they would open by saying, “Mr Clarke, we know you have voted in the past.” This reminds them of and reaffirms their identity as a voter, which in turn increases the likelihood they will vote. Get people to make a commitment to vote Another strand of our consistency bias is our commitment bias where we want to act in accordance to commitments we made, especially those made publicly, which makes us more likely to engage in the behaviour. Obama used this insight and asked voters to sign an informal commitment card saying they would vote. Falsifying rumours Slandering and making up lies about other candidates is commonly found in political campaigns. After conducting much research the COBS found the best way to falsify rumours was not to state the misinformation and then follow it up with the correct information. For example, instead of “Obama is not a Muslim, he is a Christian”, say “Obama is a Christian”. Due to our repetition bias, the more we hear something the more we think it is likely to be true. We also don’t remember full sentences but associations like “Obama-Muslim”, which they were keen to avoid. Carey, B. (2012). Academic ‘Dream Team’ helped Obama’s effort. The New York Times.
  5. 5. BIAS OF THE MONTH The Pain of Paying Throughout our daily lives we need to part with our hard-earned cash regularly. This is a painful task and something we would all love to avoid, but of course we can’t. It is so painful to us that fMRI studies have shown that the same areas in our brain that are associated with disgust and physical pain are also active when we spend money. What is really interesting about this bias is that this “pain of paying” is mediated by how observable or transparent the payment actually is. The more tangible the act of paying for something is, the less we do it. Cash is the most tangible form of payment there is as when we hand over the notes and coins, we can see and feel them. On the other hand contactless payment cards and credit cards are probably the least tangible as it is a piece of plastic and therefore people consume more when using them. Research has found that the brain areas associated with “the pain of paying” when people pay with cash are effectively deactivated with one pays with a card. Paying with contactless cards and credit cards can also be a very quick behaviour and the payment can be over and done with before we know it. A study in two major apartment complexes in the States found that people spent less on laundry when their machine accepted coins than they paid with a pre-paid card. Similarly, in another experiment it was found that when asked to bid on a pair of tickets to a sports event, those who were told they would be paying by credit card bid significantly more than those who were told they would be paying with cash. All these findings provide a solid explanation of why so many people rack up large amounts of credit card debt: If I am paying with a piece of plastic, I am not really parting with my tangible money. These studies go to show that if you want to start saving and stop using so much money, take money out of a cash machine every week and don’t let yourself pay with your cards. On the other hand, if you are a retailer and want to increase sales, one way to do it would be to ban cash payments. Soman, D. (2003). The effect of payment transparency on consumption: Quasi-experiments from the field. Marketing Letters, 14(3),173-183.
  6. 6. Guéguen, N., Bougeard-Delfosse, C., & Jacob, C. (2015). The Positive Effect of the Mere Presence of a Religious Symbol on Compliance With an Organ Donation Request. Social Marketing Quarterly, in press. As we go through our daily life, our behaviour is constantly being influenced by subconscious cues or “primes” in our environment. Research into priming has shown every element of our surrounding can influence our behaviour, such as smells, pictures, colours, words and so on. For example, Litjenquist et al. (2010) found that citrus scents encourage generous behaviour, Fitzsimons et al. (2008) found that Apple’s logo can make you more creative than IBM’s logo, and Latu et al. (2013) found that exposing women to pictures of powerful female roles models can make them better public speakers. All these examples clearly show that primes can influence our behaviour but the research is still developing. COULD A NECKLACE CHANGE YOUR BEHAVIOUR? The latest research in priming released this month comes from Guéguen, Bougeard-Delfosse and Jacob (2015), who found that the presence of a religious symbol increased people’s willingness to accept an organ donation card. During a field study in France, results showed that when a solicitor wearing a Christian cross asked people to accept an organ donation card, they were significantly more likely to do so than when the same solicitor was not wearing the cross. This effect was found for both males and females. The researchers suggest that the prime of the Christian cross may have activated concepts associated with religion such as compassion, support or solidarity. These in turn led the participants to look upon the request of the solicitor to become an organ donator with a more ‘Christian’ attitude and accept. So next time you are trying to influence someone's behaviour, don’t forget to take your jewellery into consideration.
  7. 7. WHEN ONE IS MORE POWERFUL THAN MANY The biggest global news story of the last month has been the devastating earthquake in Nepal on the 25th April, claiming the lives of over 6,000 people and injuring over 11,000 more. This has triggered a swathe of international appeals to provide relief to the area, and millions of pounds have already been raised, but could we be doing more? One mental bias that might reduce people’s motivation to donate is psychic numbing, which occurs when the scale of a problem is so large as to be incomprehensible to us (Slovic, 2007). When we think of the thousands affected by the earthquake, it is hard to put that number into perspective, understand what it means and empathise with all of those victims. The reverse of this is the identifiable victim effect, where people are able to relate to the story of one individual, and are therefore more likely to act. Small, Loewenstein and Slovic (2007) compared donations from participants who were given the story and photograph of Roka, a child at risk of starvation in Mali, with those who were given the information that food shortages in Mali were affecting 3 million children. The donations generated from Roka’s story were roughly double that from the statistics, but – worryingly – the donations from participants who had received both the story and the statistics were also reduced relative to the story only condition. This might counterintuitively suggest that, instead of reporting on the scale of the problem, those aiming to maximise donations to a cause should mention only one person in their appeal. Further research shows that people would rather donate to one child than eight; and that our ability to empathise can even be reduced when the number of children goes from one to two. An example of this effect in action is the public’s response to Stephen Sutton, the teenager whose story of battling cancer captured the nation, and who has now raised over £4.5million for the Teenage Cancer Trust, with his mother continuing to fundraise after his death last year. Over 300,000 people in the UK are diagnosed with cancer every year, an unfathomable number; but Steven’s story was one people could relate to, resulting in donations far surpassing typical rates. You can donate to the Nepal earthquake appeal here. Slovic, P. (2007). “If I look at the mass I will never act”: Psychic numbing and genocide. Judgement and Decision Making, 2 (2), 79-95.
  8. 8. YOUR PERSONALITY: FIXED OR FLEXIBLE? Though our traits may change in certain situations – feeling less confident in new surroundings, for example – for the most part we think of our personalities as relatively fixed, determined by our genetics and upbringing. There is some evidence to suggest that, while we are capable of altering these ‘free traits’ of our personalities, doing so for an extended period of time is stressful and can even lead to burn out and physical health complications. In some preliminary work, Balsari-Palsule, PhD candidate at Cambridge, has found a correlation between ‘faking’ personalities traits and lower job satisfaction, using a personality test, work life survey and data from HR. This is particularly strong for extraverts whose job requires them to work in a quiet environment with little interaction; this is also true of introverts working in loud environments, but less so. There is evidence to support these effects for all of the big five personality traits – extraversion, openness, conscientiousness, neuroticism and agreeableness. Hudson, N.W., & Fraley, R.C. (2015). Volitional Personality Trait Chance: Can People Choose to Change Their Personality Traits? Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, in press. However, a new study by Hudson and Fraley (2015) suggests that if people want to change their personalities, they may be able to. Participants were given personality questionnaires and a survey to find out how, if at all, they would like their personalities to change. Over the next 16 weeks, participants were tested again weekly, and participants who had indicated they wanted to change a particular trait were more likely to show that change. This was not assisted by weekly prompts to think of ways to make the change – participants who did this were less likely to change, perhaps due to the vague nature of their methods. In a subsequent experiment, participants were given more specific instructions to change: both proactive, like phoning a friend to ask them out to lunch to increase extraversion, and reactive, i.e. “if X happens, I’ll do Y”. This created statistically significant personality change, as a result of participants inferring a new self-concept after seeing themselves behave in a different way. It is unclear whether these results are due to a reporting bias, and how long these changes could last. This is the first research of its kind into volitional personality change, and it is not yet clear whether this can be replicated, or whether there are similar negative effects as found for changing ones traits in the workplace. It may have opposite effects if people actively dislike a specific personality trait, so changing it improves self-esteem, instead of changing just to please others.
  9. 9. RICHARD THALER Nudgestock 3 is creeping up on us with only six weeks to go. For those of you who still don’t have tickets but would like to come, there a few left that you can find here. We have a stellar line up for the day, particularly one of our headliners – a founding father of Nudge, Richard Thaler. Richard Thaler is Professor of Behavioural Science and Economics at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business and has an extremely impressive C.V. to his name. Not only does he have countless publications in the field of behavioural economics and decision making, but has also advised Barack Obama during his re-election campaign in 2012, co-authored (with Cass R. Sunstein) the New York Times best-selling book Nudge, one of the first books making all the academic knowledge of how people make decisions accessible to those outside the academic community. His latest book, Misbehaving – The Making of Behavioral Economics, is released next month and tipped to be another great success.
  10. 10. Spotted: Healthy shopping trolley in Walmart, Costa Rica People spend an average of 90 minutes walking while they shop, for the most part not realising how much exercise they are doing – far exceeding the WHO guidelines of 20 minutes per day. Walmart introduced the Healthy Shopping Cart, with a screen showing distance travelled, calories burned and heart rate. This showed users how easy it is to get more activity into their lives, and how many calories they could burn doing normal daily activities. Nutritional tips were also displayed on the screen, helping customers choose healthy items to suit their lifestyle. A shopping trolley with an iPad on it is also an incentive to spend longer in the store – therefore spending more money, both a business and a social win for Walmart. Watch the video here. REAL LIFE NUDGE OF THE MONTH UPCOMING EVENTS Professor Paul Dolan’s Introduction to Behavioural Science Friday 8th May http://pauldolan.co.uk/introductiontobehaviouralscience Mastering Strategic Decision Making Monday 11th - Friday 15th May http://www.euromatech.com/seminars/management-leadership/mastering-strategic-decision-making/ Behavioural Finance Programme, Cambridge Judge Business School Tuesday 26th – Wednesday 27th May http://www.jbs.cam.ac.uk/programmes/execed/open-programmes/behavioural-finance/
  11. 11. Cíosa Garrahan @CiosaGarrahan ciosa.garrahan@ogilvy.com BROUGHT TO YOU BY Juliet Hodges @hulietjodges juliet.hodges@ogilvy.com