💎 Information isn’t interpreted neutrally, but in line with our existing opinions

The Power of Confirmation

Three scientists, Charles Lord, Lee Ross, and Mark Lepper, recruited forty-eight American undergraduates who either strongly supported the death penalty or strongly opposed it. They presented them with two scientific studies; one offered evidence regarding the effectiveness of capital punishment, and the other data showed its ineffectiveness. In reality, the studies had been fabricated. Lord, Ross, and Lepper had made them up, but the students did not know that. Did the students find the studies convincing? Did they believe that the data provided good evidence that should alter their minds? They did!

But only when the study reinforced their original view. Those students who strongly supported capital punishment thought the study that demonstrated its effectiveness was well conducted. At the same time, they argued that the other study was poorly executed and not compelling. Those who were originally against capital punishment assessed the studies the other way around. As a result, believers in the death penalty left the lab supporting capital punishment with more passion than ever, while those in opposition to it ended up opposing capital punishment with more zest than before.

Excerpt from: The Influential Mind: What the Brain Reveals About Our Power to Change Others by Tali Sharot

💎 Giving customers even an illusion of control can boost product preference

I designed an experiment to test this idea. It involved designing Converse shoes. First, I would invite volunteers into the lab and ask them to evaluate eighty different Converse shoes on a computer screen. Each shoe would be slightly different in color and design. Then, for each volunteer, I would divide all of the shoes into two groups: half the shoes would be assigned to the “create” group and half to the “just watch” group. For the forty “create” shoes, the volunteer would have to log on to the Converse website and use the special online tool there to recreate the exact same shoe. The Converse website used to have an application that allowed anyone to design their own shoe. Notice, however, that the design and colors of the shoes in this experiment were predetermined; the volunteers did not create their favorite design—they simply re-created a design we had already made. For the forty “just watch” shoes, I asked my volunteers to watch a video on the computer screen of the shoe being created. They would sit passively in front of the computer watching, rather than clicking buttons themselves. That was the only difference between the “create” shoes and the “just watch” shoes. When the volunteers were done, two hours later, they were asked to evaluate all the shoes again.

Similar to my oil painting saga, the volunteers liked the shoes they thought they had created two hours before better than the ones they remembered “just watching.”

Excerpt from: The Influential Mind: What the Brain Reveals About Our Power to Change Others by Tali Sharot

💎 If you give people a sense of control (even an illusory one) they’re happier with their decisions

It is not only humans who like to choose: animals prefer to have a choice as well. In fact, they choose to choose even if having a choice does not change the outcome. If rats need to select between two paths that lead to food—one path is a straight line and the other subsequently requires them to select whether to go right or left—they choose the latter path. Pigeons do the same thing. Give a pigeon two options: the first is a button to peck that results in grain being dispensed, and the second is two buttons from which it needs to select one to peck in order to receive the same grain, and the bird will pick the option with two buttons. The pigeons quickly learn that the seeds are no different; yet they prefer the seeds that were obtained by making a choice.

Excerpt from: The Influential Mind: What the Brain Reveals About Our Power to Change Others by Tali Sharot

💎 We try and avoid negative information (a lesson in stock market trading)

Figure 5.2. People’s desire to know their own worth is related to market performance. The black line represents the S&P 500, and the gray line represents the number of times people logged on to their accounts to check on their stocks. When the market goes up, people are more likely to take a peek at the value of their holdings than when it goes down.

Excerpt from: The Influential Mind: What the Brain Reveals About Our Power to Change Others by Tali Sharot

💎 On the importance of giving people a sense of control (and the potential for taxation)

They invited students to a lab at Harvard University and asked them to rate pictures of various home interiors. In exchange for their time, they were given $10, but told that they were required to pay a “lab tax” of $3. The instruction was to put $3 in an envelope and hand it to the experimenter before they left. The students were not thrilled by this plan. Only half complied; the other half either left the envelope empty or gave less than the required amount.

Another group of participants, however, was told that they could advise the lab manage on how to allocate their tax money. They could suggest, for example, that their taxes would be spent on beverages and snacks for future participants. Astonishingly, merely giving participants a voice increased compliance from about 50 percent to almost 70 percent! That is dramatic. Imagine what such an increase in compliance would mean for your country, if it were translated to federal taxes.

Excerpt from: The Influential Mind: What the Brain Reveals About Our Power to Change Others by Tali Sharot