💎 On the power of loss aversion in healthcare (increased awareness)

For this reason, if you want to convince someone about something, don’t focus on the advantages; instead highlight how it helps them dodge the disadvantages. Here is an example from a campaign promotion breast self-examination (BSE): two different leaflets were handed out to women. Pamphlet A urged: “Research shows that women who do BSE have an increased change of finding a tumour in the early, non treatable stage of the disease”. Pamphlet B said: “Research shows that women who do not do BSE have a decreased chance of finding a tumour in the early, more treatable stage of the disease.: The study revealed that pamphlet B (written in a “loss-frame”) generated significantly more awareness and BSE behaviour than pamphlet A (written in “gain-frame”).

Excerpt from: The Art of Thinking Clearly by Rolf Dobelli

💎 On giving the story a face (statistics don’t stir us, people do)

In another experiment, psychologist Paul Slovic asked people for donations. One group was shown a photo of Rokia from Malawi, an emaciated child with pleading eyes. Afterward, people donated an average of $2.83 to the charity (out of $5 they were given to fill out a short survey). The second group was shown statistics about the famine in Malawi, including the fact that more than three million malnourished children were affected, The average donation dropped by 50%. This is illogical: you would think that people’s generosity would grow if they know the extent of the disaster. But we do not function like that. Statistics don’t stir us; people do.

The media have long known that factual reports and bar charts do not entice readers. Hence the guideline: give the story a face.

Excerpt from: The Art of Thinking Clearly by Rolf Dobelli

💎 On the more we see a statement, the more likely we are to believe it’s true (illusion-of-truth effect)

Another real-world manifestation of implicit memory is known as the illusion-of-truth effect: you are more likely to believe that a statement is true if you have heard it before – whether or not it is actually true. In one study, subjects rated the validity of plausible sentences every two weeks. Without letting on, the experimenters snuck in some repeat sentences (both true and false ones) across the testing sessions. And they found a clear result: if subjects had heard a sentence in precious weeks, they were more likely to now rate it as trie, even if they swore they has never heard it before.

Excerpt from; Incognito: The Secret Lives of the Brain by David Eagleman

💎 On the power of accountability (to reduce littering)

A writer at out agency, Rob DeCleyn, found another great example of choice architecture in his local paper.

A village in Kent had a problem with litter.

Sweet wrappers, crisp packers, soft drink cans and bottles were strewn all over the streets.

But the local shopkeeper didn’t complain or nag the children.

He just wrote their name on the crisp and sweet packets when they bought them.

That’s all, just the child’s name.

And the litter problem cleared up almost immediately.

That’s choice architecture.

The children could still choose to throw their wrappers in the street.

They didn’t have to put them in the litter bin.

The only difference was that now everyone would know whose litter it was.

Excerpt from: One Plus One Equals Three: A Masterclass in Creative Thinking by Dave Trott

💎 On reducing anti-social behaviour (by making the alternatives more fun)

[…] in 2004, Preston council in Lancashire started to use boards with a peelable plastic film that could be cleaned every day and announced that the board helped reduce gum litter in the town by nearly 80 per cent. In the first year of their use Luton, Bedfordshire, the boards collected in excess of 75,000 pieces of used gum would otherwise have probably ended up on the pavement.

Excerpt from: One Step Ahead: Notes from the Problem Solving Unit by Stevyn Colgan

💎 On how poorly set targets lead to unintended consequences (Dead Sea scrolls to company boards)

In 1947, when the Dead Sea scrolls were discovered, archaeologists set a finder’s fee for each new parchment. Instead of lots of extra scrolls being found, they were simply torn apart to increase the reward. Similarly, in China in the nineteenth century, an incentive was offered for finding dinosaur bones. Farmers located a few on their land, broke them into pieces and cashed in. Modern incentives are no better: company boards promise bonuses for achieved targets. And what happens? Managers invest more energy in trying to lower the targets than in growing the business.

Excerpt from: The Art of Thinking Clearly by Rolf Dobelli

💎 On communicating risks to others to change behaviour (are anti-drugs ads too formulaic?)

Public-education films in the rich world have historically focused on the risks to health caused by taking drugs. Several decades later, those campaigns don’t seem to have made much of an impact—and that is not surprising, given that the chances of dying of an overdose are fairly slim. The truth is that buying and taking illegal drugs probably won’t kill you. But it may very well kill someone else. Cocaine, for instance, is manufactured and exported exclusively by cartels that use murder and torture as part of their business model.

Excerpt from: Narconomics: How to Run a Drug Cartel by Tom Wainwright

💎 On the balance between too much and too little choice (the inverted U-curve)

Take a simple study on pens led by Avni Shah and George Wolford, psychologist at Duke University and Dartmouth College, respectively. The scientists found twenty different pen options, all of which cost between $1.89 and $2.39 and contained black ink. The subjects were told that the pens cost about $2, but that they could purchase any of them for a special discounted rate of $1.

Here’s where things get interesting. At first glance, offering people more pens might seem like a good thing, since they can find the pen that best suits their needs. Some people like ballpoint pens, others prefer roller-balls, or just care about the texture of the grip. Sure enough, offering people more pens led to a higher percentage of people buying pens, at least at first. When only two pens were offered, 40 percent of students bought one. However, when there were ten pens to consider, 90 percent of people found one they liked enough to buy.

But now comes the inverted U-curve—when more than ten pens were offered, people became much less willing to choose any pen at all. The drop-off was steep: when there were sixteen different pens to choose from, only 30 percent of subjects bought one.

Excerpt from: The Smarter Screen: Surprising Ways to Influence and Improve Online Behavior by Shlomo Benartzi and Jonah Lehrer

💎 On consumers become less price sensitive when spending with credit card (we treat physical and digital differently)

Want proof? Consider an experiment conducted several years ago by Drazen Prelec and Duncan Simester, marketing professors at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The pair organized a real-life, sealed-bid auction for tickets to a Boston Celtics game (this was during the Larry Bird, Kevin McHale, Robert Parish era, so the tickets were especially valuable). Half the participants in the auction were informed that whoever won the bidding would have to pay for the tickets in cash (although they had a day to come up with the funds). The other half were told that the winning bidder would have to pay by credit card. Prelec and Simester then averaged the bids of those who thought they would have to pay in cash and those who thought they could pay with a credit card. Incredibly, the average credit card bid was roughly twice as large as the average cash bid.

Excerpt from: Why Smart People Make Big Money Mistakes and How to Correct Them: Lessons from the New Science of Behavioural Economics by Gary Belsky and Thomas Gilovich

💎 On consumers being price sensitive in some areas but price blind in others (printer ink versus champagne)

Just setting the printer default to “draft” quality would save consumers hundreds of dollars a year. Yet few consumers do. Though many companies still sell cheaper ink refills, refills account for only 10 to 15 percent of the market. That means that 90 percent of printing is still done using ink that, according to the PC World analysis, costs $4,731 per gallon. You might as well fill your ink cartridges with 1985 vintage Krug champagne.

Excerpt from: The Price of Everything: The True Cost of Living by Eduardo Porter

💎 On our tendency to make decisions or judgements based on what we can remember easily (availability bias)

By behavioural psychologists Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky in 1973. In their classic experiment, they asked people to listen to a list of names and then recall whether there were more men or women on the list. Some people in the experiment were read a list of famous men and less famous women, while others were read the opposite. Afterwards, when quizzed by the researchers, individuals were more likely to say that there were more of the gender from the group with more famous names. Later researchers have linked this effect to how easily people could retrieve information: we tend to over-rely on what we can remember easily when coming to decisions or judgements.

Excerpt from: The Perils of Perception Why We’re Wrong About Nearly Everything by Bobby Duffy

💎 On thoughts and feelings following behaviour rather than the other way round (Benjamin Franklin effect)

Eighteenth-century American polymath and politician Benjamin Franklin was once eager to gain the cooperation of a difficult and apathetic member of the Pennsylvania state legislature. Rather than spend his time bowing and scraping to the man, Franklin decided on a completely different course of action. He knew this person had a copy of a rare and unusual book in his private library, and so Franklin asked whether he might borrow it for a couple of days. The man agreed and, according to Franklin, ‘When we next met in the House, he spoke to me (which he had never done before), and with great civility; and he ever after manifested a readiness to serve me on all occasions.’ Franklin attributed the success of his book-borrowing technique to a simple principle: ‘He that has once done you a kindness will be more ready to do you another than he whom you yourself have obliged.’ In other words, to increase the likelihood of someone liking you, get them to do you a favour. A century later, Russian novelist Leo Tolstoy appeared to agree: ‘We do not love people so much for the good they have done us, as for the good we do them.’

Excerpt from: 59 Seconds: Think a little, change a lot by Richard Wiseman

💎 On removing anxieties about buying a product (Dr Pepper)

But weirdly, I’ve never asked for Dr Pepper in a bar because you know they’re not going to have it and there’s that mild embarrassment about asking for something they haven’t got, and feeling like a bit of a twat. However, if you ask for Coke and they don’t have it, it’s their fault not yours, the whole dynamic’s completely different. The only place that it’s socially acceptable not to sell Coke is a total health farm weirdo place full of organic produce, and even then it’s a bit irritating. They’ll have loads of those Fentimans Victorian-style lemonades, and even then it’s a bit irritating—come on, just sell Coke for crying out loud! Everywhere else has to sell Coke and it’s their fault if they haven’t got it. An aversion to little things like minor forms of embarrassment stop me from being a maximiser and asking for Dr Pepper, and I’ll always ask for Diet coke if I’m in a pub or a bar unless they have some massive sign saying ‘We Sell Dr Pepper’, in which case I would obviously ask for Dr Pepper.

Excerpt from: Rory Sutherland: The Wiki Man by Rory Sutherland

💎 On how our emotions lead us to become less sensitive to differences in the magnitude of numbers (buyer beware)

Research scientists Christopher Hsee and Yuval Rottenstreich have asserted that people’s judgement and decision-making abilities can be impaired by an event such as the SARS outbreak, not because it induces negative feelings, but rather because it is an emotionally charged issue, regardless of the nature of the feelings it produces. Specifically, they argue that emotions lead people to become less sensitive to differences in the magnitude of numbers; they’re more likely to pay attention to the simple presence or absence of an event. In business terms, what this means is that people are more likely to pay attention to the simple presence or absence of an emotion-laden offer than to the specific numbers involved.

To test this idea, the researchers asked participants to spend a brief period of time thinking about some issues either emotionally or non-emotionally. Shortly afterwards, these research subjects were told to imagine that someone they knew was selling a set of Madonna CDs. Half of them were told that there were five CDs in the bundle, whereas the other half were told that there were ten. Participants were then asked to report the maximum amount they’d be willing to pay for the bundle.

The researchers found that those who had earlier practised thinking in an unemotional manner were willing to pay more for the set of ten CDs than for the set of five, which is quite rational. More interestingly, however, those who had earlier practised thinking in an emotional manner were less sensitive to the difference in the number of CDs, reporting that they would pay roughly the same for each set.

The results of this research suggest that emotional experience can have a detrimental impact on decision-making, perhaps allowing you to be persuaded by an offer when you shouldn’t be.

Excerpt from: Yes! 50 Secrets from the Science of Persuasion by Noah Goldstein, Steve Martin and Robert Cialdini

💎 On the power of the internet to remove our inhibitions (it doesn’t judge)

The researchers were able to conduct a field experiment into how the introduction of technology changed the content of customer orders. According to the data, online customers chose pizzas that were more complicated and expensive, containing 33 percent more toppings and 6 percent more calories. Instead of just ordering a pepperoni pizza, they chose pies that featured highly unusual toppings, such as “quadruple bacon” or ham, pineapple, and mushroom. (When orders were placed online, bacon sales increased by 20 percent.)

Excerpt from: The Smarter Screen: Surprising Ways to Influence and Improve Online Behavior by Shlomo Benartzi and Jonah Lehrer

💎 On our want (and happiness) for what others want

Females are more attracted to males that have other females close by. Sage grouse hens are more likely to choose to mate with a male if other females have already chosen him. The likelihood of a female fallow deer or sage grouse entering the territory of a male is positively associated with the number of females already present. In a particularly clever experiment, scientists found that placing a stuffed female black grouse in the territory of a male who had failed to mate resulted in an increase in the number of females who enter that luckless male’s territory. Females are influenced by the preferences of other females.

At the human level as well, our automatic, nonconscious mental system uses the preferences of others to help us form our own preferences and even to help us evaluate how happy we are with a choice we have already made.

Excerpt from: 7 Secrets of Persuasion by James Crimmins

💎 On how the group consensus sways other people’s opinions (we like to conform)

Additional experiments, growing out of Asch’s basic method, find large conformity effects for judgments of many different kinds. Consider the following finding. People were asked, ‘Which one of the following do you feel is the most important problem facing our country today?’ Five alternatives were offered: economic recession, educational facilities, subversive activities, mental health, and crime and corruption. Asked privately, a mere 12 percent chose subversive activities. But when exposed to an apparent group consensus unanimously selecting that option, 48 percent of people made the same choice!

Excerpt from: Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth and Happiness by Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein

💎 On giving people a licence to indulge (McDonalds salads)

My favorite example of this gap between the behavioral self and the aspirational self has nothing to do with reading, but usefully extends the foodie metaphor beyond doughnuts. In the early to mid-2000s, McDonald’s got more aggressive about promoting healthy options like salad and fruit on its menus. But its revenue growth in those years was due entirely to people eating more greasy fare, like cheeseburgers and fried chicken. New healthy options seemed to lure wannabe dieters into the restaurant, where they would order fast-food basics. In 2010, a group of wordsmithing Duke University researchers called this phenomenon “vicarious goal fulfillment.” Merely considering something that’s “good for you” satisfies a goal and grants license to indulge. People say they want hard news in their social media feeds, but mostly click on funny photos. People say they want to eat greens, but mostly order greasy sandwiches at salad-serving restaurants. People aren’t lying— they do want to be the sort of person who reads news! They do want to see salad options!—but mere proximity to good behavior satisfies their interest in behaving well.

Excerpt from: Hit Makers: The Science of Popularity in an Age of Distraction by Derek Thompson

💎 On the key to persuasion being seeing things from the other person’s (or cow’s) point of view

One day Ralph Waldo Emerson and his son tried to get a calf into the barn. But they made the common mistake of thinking only of what they wanted: Emerson pushed and his son pulled. But the calf was doing just what they were doing: he was thinking only of what he wanted; so he stiffened his legs and stubbornly refused to leave the pasture. The Irish housemaid saw their predicament. She couldn’t write essays and books; but, on this occasion at least, she had more horse sense, or calf sense, than Emerson had. She thought of what the calf wanted; so she put her maternal finger in the calf’s mouth and let the calf suck her finger as she gently led him into the barn.

Excerpt from: How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie

💎 On using humour in negotiations to make it more likely to get what you want (laughing all the way to the bank)

An elaborate multivariate analysis showed:

The results provide firm support for the major hypothesis that verbal humor leads to greater compliance. Subjects who received a demand accompanied by humor made greater financial concessions than no-humor subjects… Humor was equally effective as an influence technique when used by both sexes, and when directed toward both sexes. Our compliance data provided no evidence that joking was more appropriate for males.

Excerpt from: How To Make Better Advertising And Advertising Better by Vic Polinghorne and Andy Palmer

💎 On producing content being the easy part (getting anyone to listen is the hard part)

Ideas that are allocated no attention at all – those that are never exposed to anyone – make no impact on the world, by logical extension, since no one sees them. The 50 per cent of YouTube videos with less than 500 views don’t individually make much impact on culture. So attention is a powerful thing – but what kind of thing is it?

Excerpt from: Paid Attention: Innovative Advertising for a Digital World by Faris Yakob

💎 On our tendency to explain behaviour through personality rather than context (fundamental attribution error)

Fundamental attribution error was conducted in 1967 by Edward Jones and Victor Harris at Duke University. They had students read speech transcripts of debaters both in support of and in opposition to the political ideologies of Fidel Castro. (Today they might have used Osama bin Laden.) The students correctly attributed the speechwriter’s ideas as influenced by the speechwriter’s internal feelings when told the person who gave the speech had chosen his own position. If, for instance, the debaters said they disagreed with Castro, the students said they believed them. When the students were told the debater had no choice in the matter and was assigned the position as either pro- or anti-Castro, the students didn’t buy it. If the debater was assigned a pro-Castro position and then gave a pro-Castro speech, the students reading that speech told the researchers they thought the debater really believed what he or she was saying. The situation’s influence didn’t play into their assumptions; instead they saw all the debaters’ words as springing from their character.

Excerpt from: You Are Not So Smart: Why Your Memory Is Mostly Fiction, Why You Have Too Many Friends On Facebook And 46 Other Ways You’re Deluding Yourself by David Mcraney

💎 On how we’re more likely to behave immorally if we think others have misbehaved (graffiti and littering)

In their field experiments Keizer and his colleagues tested to what extent various subtle signs of disorder in an environment could influence the proliferation of other undesirable behaviors. In one study the researchers found the perfect setting for their test: an alleyway near a Dutch shopping mall where shoppers typically parked their bikes. While the shoppers were at the mall, the researchers affixed one of the store’s advertisements on the handlebar of each bicycle with an elastic band. In one condition, the researchers left the alleyway just as they found it; in a second condition, they added graffiti to the alleyway. Because there were no garbage bins in the area, shoppers returning from the mall to find a printed advertisement attached to the handlebars of their bicycle had a simple choice. Do they remove the advertisement and take it home with them—or do they instead drop it on the ground?

The results revealed that 33 percent of the bicycle owners littered the paper when there was no graffiti to be seen in the alleyway. However, 69 percent did so when graffiti was present.

Excerpt from: The Small BIG: Small Changes that Spark Big Influence by Robert Cialdini, Noah Goldstein, and Steve Martin

💎 On how we’re more likely to help those similar to ourselves (dress like us)

Several studies have demonstrated that we are more likely to help those who dress like us. In one study, done in the early 1970s when young people tended to dress either in “hippie” or “straight” fashion, experimenters donned hippie or straight attire and asked college students on campus for a dime to make a phone call. When the experimenter was dressed in the same way as the student, the request was granted in more than two thirds of the instances; but when the student and requester were dissimilarly dressed, the dime was provided less than half the time. Another experiment shows how automatic our positive response to similar others can be. Marchers in an antiwar demonstration were found to be not only more likely to sign the petition of a similarly dressed requester, but also to do so without bothering to read it first. Click, whirr.

Excerpt from: Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert Cialdini

💎 On why brands need to make the best possible first impression (primacy error)

One of the first experiments on the topic was run in the USA by Solomon Asch. He asked subjects to evaluate a person simply on the basis of a list of six adjectives describing him. They might be told that he was ‘intelligent, industrious, impulsive critic, stubborn and envious’. Other subjects were given exactly the same six words but in the opposite order, ‘envious, stubborn, critical, impulsive, industrious and intelligent’. All subjects were then I asked to fill in a rating sheet in order to evaluate the person. For example, they had to indicate how happy they thought he was, how sociable he was, and so on. The subjects who heard the first list, which began with favourable adjectives evaluated the person considerably more highly than did those given the list beginning with the derogatory words. This effect – being more heavily influenced by early than by late item – is called the ‘primacy error’.

Excerpt from: Irrationality: The enemy within by Stuart Sutherland