πŸ’Ž On how much more we value items we’ve had a role in selecting (lottery tickets)

In general people prefer something freely chosen to the same thing forced upon them. The effect is dramatically revealed in a study that did not directly involve reward or punishment. Lottery tickets costing $1 each were sold to the employees of two companies. Some of the employees were allowed to choose the number of their tickets, others had no choice but were merely handed a ticket. Just before the draw, the experimenter approached each subject offering to buy the ticket back. The subjects who had no choice were prepared to sell back for $1.96 on average, but those who had selected their own tickets held out for an average of $8.67. There could be no better demonstration that we irrationally overvalue what we freely choose.

Excerpt from: Irrationality: The enemy within by Stuart Sutherland

πŸ’Ž The power of name (brand) recognition

I give a final striking example, this time to do with publishers. In 1969, Jerzy Kosinsky’s novel Steps won the American National Book Award for fiction. Eight years later some joker had it retyped and sent the manuscript with no title under a false name to fourteen major publishers and thirteen literary agents in the US including Random House, the firm who originally published it. Of the 27 people to whom it was submitted no one recognised it had been published and all 27 rejected it.

Except from: Irrationality by Stuart Sutherland

πŸ’Ž On how the language we use to describe an event shapes our memories (every word is important)

Elizabeth Loftus showed subjects a videotape of a car accident. Some subjects were then asked, β€˜How fast were the cars going when they smashed into each other?’, others were asked, β€˜How fast were the cars going when they hit one another?’ The average speed given by the first group was 41 miles per hour and by the second 34 miles per hour. A week later subjects were asked whether they had noticed any broken glass resulting from the accident. The presence of broken glass was incorrectly reported by twice as many of the first group as of the second: the suggestion that the cars had been travelling fast had made subjects confabulate the occurrence of broken glass.

Excerpt from: Irrationality: The enemy within by Stuart Sutherland

πŸ’Ž On how survey answers can be swayed (by how question is asked)

For example, a questionnaire on the number of headaches people experience in one week was given to two different groups of subjects. One group had to indicate whether the number was 1-5, 6-10, 11-15, and so on, while the other was presented with the numbers broken down into 1-3, 4-6, 7-9, etc. The first group reported many more headaches than the second. Moreover, almost everyone is influenced by the two end points of a scale, tending to pick a number that is near the middle.

Excerpt from:Β Irrationality: The enemy within by Stuart Sutherland

πŸ’Ž On the damage of rewards (devaluing the task)

At the end of the last chapter, I showed that giving someone a negligible reward (or no reward) for performing an unpleasant act makes the act seem less disagreeable than it really is. One can also ask what is the effect of a large reward on the perception of a pleasant task. The answer is unequivocal: it devalues the task β€” in the eyes of those performing it. Nursery school children were provided in their playtime with brightly coloured Magic Markers and attractive drawing paper. Those who showed an interest in drawing were subsequently given the same apparatus in the classroom and encouraged to draw. One group was promised a glossy certificate for good drawing, while another was given no reward. Two weeks later the material was again provided and the children were told it was up to them whether they wanted to draw or not. The group previously given the certificate showed a marked decline in interest, while the other group drew as much as they had done in the previous two sessions. Presumably the children thought that drawing could not be of much interest in its own right if a reward was needed to make them engage in it.

Excerpt from: Irrationality: The enemy within by Stuart Sutherland

πŸ’Ž 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