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O BEHAVE!
Issue 15 • June 2015
Don’t Ask the Person, Ask the Brain 3
Bias of the Month 4
Why Are You Really Giving To Charity? 5
Therapeutic Properties o...
Our keynote speaker Professor Colin Camerer, who has spent the year at the University of Oxford on sabbatical from his usu...
BIAS OF THE MONTH
The Pratfall Effect
Many of us strive for perfection, to prove our competency to ourselves and signal it...
WHY ARE YOU REALLY GIVING TO CHARITY?
One of our favourite talks from Nudgestock this year was by Professor Nicola Raihani...
From Grumpy Cat and Lil BUB to the lolcats and their incorrigibly bad grammar, cats seem to be all over the Internet. This...
IS IT YOUR FAULT YOU ARE BROKE?
Managing our finances is vital to us leading a successful life; it affects everything from...
Spotted: Defaults in the bathroom at Murphy’s Brewhouse, Bangalore
We’ve all seen the fly in the urinal, but Murphy’s Brew...
Cíosa Garrahan
@CiosaGarrahan
ciosa.garrahan@ogilvy.com
BROUGHT TO YOU BY
Juliet Hodges
@hulietjodges
juliet.hodges@ogilvy...
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O Behave! Issue 15

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The latest in behavioural science from #ogilvychange.

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O Behave! Issue 15

  1. 1. O BEHAVE! Issue 15 • June 2015
  2. 2. Don’t Ask the Person, Ask the Brain 3 Bias of the Month 4 Why Are You Really Giving To Charity? 5 Therapeutic Properties of Internet Cats 6 Is It Your Fault You Are Broke? 7 Real Life Nudge of the Month 8 Upcoming Events 8 CONTENTS
  3. 3. Our keynote speaker Professor Colin Camerer, who has spent the year at the University of Oxford on sabbatical from his usual post at Caltech, opened our day at the seaside by discussing his recent brain imaging research. Often, what people say they’re going to do – from quitting smoking to buying certain products – doesn’t match what they actually do, and Camerer explored several examples where brain activity was more predictive of a person’s behaviour than what they said. DON’T ASK THE PERSON, ASK THE BRAIN In a series of experiments, participants’ behaviour and brain activity was compared during real and hypothetical tasks. These ranged from looking at items to potentially buy (Kang, Rangel, Camus & Camerer, 2011), to placing bids to avoid eating questionable things like fried tarantulas or pigs’ feet (Kang & Camerer, 2013). In the hypothetical condition, participants were asked how much they would buy these items for or how much they would pay to not eat these things, and while they were asked to be honest and imagine this was a real purchase decision, they knew they would not have to act on their choices. However, in the real condition, participants were told that one of their choices would be selected at random and they would have to act upon it, whether by purchasing the item if they had indicated they would like to or eating a tarantula if they hadn’t bid enough not to. Behavioural data shows people over-report how much they would pay for items and underreport how much they would pay to avoid eating distasteful food, and measurements from fMRI revealed very different patterns of activation during the two tasks: brain activity was much greater during real decisions, including frontal areas like the anterior cingulate cortex, which is involved in executive function. This shows we can ask the brain to discover how ‘serious’ a person is when asking certain questions. Another strand of research looking at people’s reported response to messaging around applying sunscreen or quitting smoking found similar effects: brain activity was more predictive of the effectiveness of the message than what people said they found most powerful. In particular, increased activity in motor regions of the brain, when people imagined using sunscreen, was more effective in getting people to actually use it than rational arguments to do so. This has important implications for market research, which often relies exclusively on self-reports to draw conclusions: if people answer hypothetically, and don’t have access to the parts of the brain that determine their behaviour in real situations, their answers may not be very reliable at all. If you missed Nudgestock (or just want to relive it), you can watch all of the talks here. Kang, M.J., Rangel, A., Camus, M., & Camerer, C.F. (2011). Hypothetical and Real Choice Differentially Activate Common Valuation Areas. The Journal of Neuroscience, 1(2), 461-468.
  4. 4. BIAS OF THE MONTH The Pratfall Effect Many of us strive for perfection, to prove our competency to ourselves and signal it to others, but according to the pratfall effect our quest for perfectionism may be doing more harm than good. The aptly named pratfall effect is our tendency to view someone we think of as competent/attractive as relatively more competent or attractive after they have made a mistake. Conversely, if we perceived that individual as only averagely competent/attractive before they made a mistake, we would generally consider them less likeable and competent afterwards. The pratfall effect was first studied in 1966, in an experiment where male students were asked to listen to a contestant on a quiz show. The tapes consisted of an interview with very difficult questions. Some participants heard a highly competent contestant who got 92% of the questions correct and also had a very impressive C.V., while the other participants heard a mediocre contest who only got 32% of the questions right and had a very average C.V. Unsurprisingly, the competent contestant was rated as significantly more competent and likable than the mediocre participant. Where it gets interesting is what happened after a “pratfall” or blunder was introduced into the study. After half of the participants had heard the interview and read the C.V. they then overheard the contestant say, “Oh no, I spilled my coffee on myself!” Results found that those who heard the competent contestant make a blunder rated him as significantly more competent and likable than the other half of participants, who were not exposed to the pratfall. On the other hand, those who heard the mediocre contestant make the same pratfall, spilling coffee over themselves, rated them as significantly less competent and likeable than those who had only heard him answer the quiz and had seen his C.V. This research shows that our tendency to inflate how competent/likeable we perceive someone to be does depend on whether we perceived them as competent before their mistake. .Adam Ferrier noted at Nudgestock that brands should take this on board. Instead of striving for perfection, brands could potentially improve their likability by tactically adding in a little blunder here and there. Ferrier noted that some firms already make use of this technique when pitching for new business: rather than delivering a perfectly polished pitch, such firms will drop or spill something during the meeting, hoping the pratfall effect will sway things in their favour Aronson, E., Willerman, B., & Floyd, J. (1966). The effect of a pratfall on increasing interpersonal attractiveness. Psychonomic Science, 4(6), 227-228.
  5. 5. WHY ARE YOU REALLY GIVING TO CHARITY? One of our favourite talks from Nudgestock this year was by Professor Nicola Raihani (UCL), who spoke about the evolutionary reasons behind why people engage in the seemingly selfless act of charitable giving. Her hypothesis was that mate selection and competition would play a role. She stated that most explanations given for pro-social behaviour are 1) helping relatives, 2) reciprocity or 3) punishment, none of which explain appear to explain behaviours observed in charitable donations This alternative reason of mate selection she specified as “reputation”- for men, enhancing their reputation could increase the likelihood they would be chosen as a mate. Previous research has shown that the qualities of wealth and helpfulness are extremely important to women when choosing a partner, whereas attractiveness and fertility are hugely important to men. Therefore, the likelihood a man would be chosen as a potential partner increases if a female observes him helping another, e.g. by giving to charity. Nicola and her co-author Sarah Smith hypothesised that this situation creates a competitive market for men where they compete to be viewed as more helpful and generous in the eyes of the female. A popular fundraising website was chosen for analysis: using 11,579 donation pages for the 2014 London Marathon, there were two conditions – attractive female pages and unattractive female pages (women were independently rated as attractive or unattractive from their profile picture by Amazon Mechanical Turk Workers). The analysis revealed a very interesting competitive behaviour. On the occasions a man made a large donation (higher than the existing page average) to an attractive female fundraiser, it was significantly more likely that another man would also make a large donation after seeing this. Results of all the pages analysed showed that whether a man/woman gave a significantly high donation to an attractive/unattractive women, men’s donations were significantly higher than before the high donation. The only finding which had a significant difference across all conditions was when male donors were responding to a high donation made by another man and they were giving to the most attractive females (four times greater than any other effect size). There were no significant findings for female competitiveness. These results give weight to the argument that a key reason men give to charity is to signal their wealth, health (blood donation) and helpfulness, now we know this signal becomes increased in the presence of an attractive female. Raihani, N. J., & Smith, S. (2015). Competitive helping in online giving. Current Biology, 25(9), 1183-1186.
  6. 6. From Grumpy Cat and Lil BUB to the lolcats and their incorrigibly bad grammar, cats seem to be all over the Internet. This is reflected on YouTube’s over 2 million cat videos and their nearly 26 million views (as of 2014), the highest number of views per video of any category on the site. There are also festivals to celebrate these creatures, such as the LA Feline Film Festival. Research even suggests that people are twice as likely to post a photo or video of a cat than they are to post a selfie. So far, so mildly interesting – but Jessica Gall Myrick at Indiana University has actually managed to get funding to study our Internet cat-watching habits, and has subsequently had this ground-breaking research published. THERAPEUTIC PROPERTIES OF INTERNET CATS Spending time with animals in the form of ‘pet therapy’ has been shown to improve mood and wellbeing in a range of settings, and has become more widespread in recent years, such as when specially-trained golden retrievers were sent to Boston in the wake of the terrorist attack in 2013. Given the positive effects of watching cats felt by the participants in this study, online videos of animals may have a similarly mood-lifting effect at a much lower cost, and avoiding contact with the animals for anyone with allergies. As Myrick’s study used survey data from a fairly unrepresentative sample, further research to directly test the effects of Internet cats needs to be done to determine whether this is the case, if anyone can stop watching cat videos for long enough to actually carry it out. Myrick (2015) did an online survey to establish what motivates people to seek out cat content, and what effect, if any, this would have on the viewer’s mood. Recruiting participants through Lil BUB’s social media, 6827 people completed the survey; of whom, 88.4% were female and 52.5% held a bachelor’s degree or higher. Among this sample, a higher frequency of cat content viewing was found in those with the personality traits of shyness, agreeableness and anxiety, and, unsurprisingly, those who indicated a greater affinity for cats. Watching cat videos was related to mood management; participants reported a lower mood before watching, which improved afterwards. There was also evidence to suggest it was often a procrastination tool, producing feelings of guilt. Interestingly, Myrick suggests that the happiness produced by these videos results in people wanting to express their current mood, while guilt makes people want to make amends and reverse harm done; therefore, sharing the cat videos that have brought them pleasure with others makes people feel better about wasting time. This multiplies the amount of cat content available online, and the cycle continues. Myrick, J.G. (2015). Emotion regulation, procrastination, and watching cat videos online: Who watches Internet cats, why, and to what effect? Computers in Human Behavior, 52, 168-176.
  7. 7. IS IT YOUR FAULT YOU ARE BROKE? Managing our finances is vital to us leading a successful life; it affects everything from whether we have a roof over our heads by ensuring when mortgage/rent day comes we still have enough in our accounts, to the type of life we will live when we retire. Rationally we all know how important managing our money is, but you are not alone if you get to rent day and find you have spent to much money and now don’t have enough to pay it, or reach retirement age and find that you haven't saved enough in your pension to be able to afford to retire. As our ability to manage our finances is so important, many have called for more financial education. A new paper from the RSA states that, like so many of our behaviours, knowing what we should do rationally and actually doing it are very different things. Our brains are wired in such a way that we are prone to many biases when making decisions which make us, despite our best efforts, behave in ways that are far from optimal. This paper states that as part of financial education, people should be taught the biases that lead to poor decision-making, so that people can recognise and overcome them. The six behavioural hurdles to financial capability discussed in the report are outlined below: • Cognitive overload: Having a lot on our minds can have negative impacts on our decision-making. We tend to choose the simplest and easiest option, which isn’t always the best or cheapest. • Empathy gaps: Our current self is very poor at predicating how our future self will feel. People tend to overbuy when food shopping while hungry as their current self mis-predicts how hungry their future self will be. • Optimism/Overconfidence: We generally tend to have positive yet unrealistic expectations about the future, which can affect money management and leave us unprepared for a change in circumstances. • Instant gratification We are present- rather than future-focused, so are constantly looking for instant gratification. This drives impulse-buying and can undermine saving plans. • Harmful habits: Habits lead to unnecessary spending, as once a purchasing behaviour becomes a habit people stop thinking about whether this purchase is still necessary. • Social norms: We are significantly influenced by the behaviours of others and want to do/have what others do/have. Consumption norms (e.g. iPhones) are more visible than many important behaviours, such as saving for a pension, which is why many people choose to purchase an iPhone over putting money in a pension. When designing financial education and products, the RSA states that it is imperative these behavioural hurdles are kept in mind, and we agree! Spencer, N., Nieboer, J., & Elliot, A. (2015) Wired for Imprudence: RSA.
  8. 8. Spotted: Defaults in the bathroom at Murphy’s Brewhouse, Bangalore We’ve all seen the fly in the urinal, but Murphy’s Brewhouse has taken a different approach to ensuring their patrons pee on-target. Using the insight that we’re guided by the default direction of footprints on the ground (such as following them to bins to reduce public littering), this bathroom has two sets: “If drunk” and “If sober”. Following these footprints, drunk people will stand a lot closer – and hopefully be a lot more accurate! Tweet your #NudgesInTheWild for the chance to be in next month’s O Behave! REAL LIFE NUDGE OF THE MONTH UPCOMING EVENTS The European Conference on Psychology and the Behavioral Sciences 2015 Monday 6th July – Wednesday 8th July Thistle Brighton Hotel, Brighton Behavioural Finance: Foundations and Recent Developments Monday 13th July, 9.00am-5.30pm Fitch Learning, London Behavioural Boozeonomics with the London Behavioural Economics Network Monday 13th July, 6.30-11.00pm The Comedy Pub, Piccadilly
  9. 9. Cíosa Garrahan @CiosaGarrahan ciosa.garrahan@ogilvy.com BROUGHT TO YOU BY Juliet Hodges @hulietjodges juliet.hodges@ogilvy.com
  • LauraVroom

    Jul. 2, 2015

The latest in behavioural science from #ogilvychange.

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