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O Behave! Issue 2 (May Edition)


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O BEHAVE is a monthly newsletter brought to you by #ogilvychange that encompasses the latest research in behavioural science. Enjoy!

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O Behave! Issue 2 (May Edition)

  1. 1. O Behave • Issue 2 • May 2014 O BEHAVE! Welcome to the second edition of O Behave, your monthly summary of the latest developments in cognitive psychology and behavioural science, brought to you #ogilvychange. Tim Harford’s Controversial Take on Behavioural Economics In his recent Financial Times article, Tim Harford considers the teething problems and harsh scrutiny faced by the discipline of behavioural economics. He discusses a recent experiment by the Behavioural Insights Team (BIT), where they trialled eight different messages to increase organ donation. They were so confident that social norms would be successful that they trialled three different types but - like our BT experiment - these produced no uplift in responses. This raises the issue that past research often fails to apply in other settings, and there are often new theories to explain each new finding. Given there is no general theory of behaviour, this limits the predictive power of behavioural economics. In addition, there is debate over the definition of behavioural economics – the BIT experiment described above, for example, is really more social psychology. Harford also suggests that behavioural economics is so fashionable amongst politicians because the policies are more popular with voters than more prescriptive law changes, but not necessarily more effective. For example, while David Cameron said in a speech that the best way to reduce energy use was to give people clear information on how much they and their neighbours were really using, it is unlikely that this would really have as great an impact as increasing the price of energy would. Classical economics still has a role in public policy, which can be overlooked by politicians trying to win votes with softer policies. Biases of the Week Fluency heuristic We infer that things are easier, more trustworthy and of higher value when they can be processed easily. In a series of experiments, Song and Schwarz (2008) showed that participants were more likely to undertake an exercise regime or cook a new recipe if they were written in the easy-to-read Arial font than the more cognitively effortful Mistral font. They rated the task as more time- consuming and requiring more skill when described in Mistral than Arial. Similarly, Alten and Oppenheimer (2006) found that stocks with pronounceable ticker codes like KAR performed significantly better on their first day of trading than stocks with codes that were not pronounceable, like RDO. The traders instinctively valued the stocks they were able to pronounce easily more. Hedonic Adaptation This is a phenomenon where people quickly become used to changes, great or terrible, in order to maintain a stable level of happiness. People can easily adapt to living with less, without suffering many negative consequences. In the same way, when we are constantly pursuing more, we have to get even more to stay happy and therefore people constantly purchase items to stay happy. This phrase was made famous by Frederick and Lowenstein in their book “Well-being: The foundations of hedonic psychology”. Much of their research focuses on prison inmates becoming comfortable in their confined prison cells- a process that occurs surprisingly quickly.
  2. 2. O Behave • Issue 2 • May 2014 Joint versus Individual Incentives Incentives are one of the most popular behaviour change tools people turn to when creating interventions and therefore it is imperative to know all there is to know about them. A new study this month by the Behavioural Insights Team (BIT) showed that group incentives were more effective than individual incentives. Within a school setting they split students into 3 groups: a control condition, individual incentive and group incentive, with the goal to use an incentive to improve grades amongst students. Those in the individual incentive group were told that they would receive a 20% grade increase only if they passed the exam and had a perfect attendance rate for that week. The same was told to students in the group incentive, but with the added twist that they would only receive the 20% increase if all students in the group passed the exam and had perfect attendance. Results showed that on average those in the “group incentive” scored higher on their mid-terms compared to the control group. The researchers noted that this occurred due to peer monitoring and that peer effects can be very influential particularly at this age group. The incentive also had spill-over effects with these students also scoring higher on their homework and midterm exams in other courses. The “individual incentive group” showed no change in grades or attendance. There aren’t enough studies done on this topic particularly with different age groups to say conclusively that group incentives are more effective that individual incentives. We will keep you updated with further studies in this area. Perceptions of Past, Present and Future At the latest Society for Personality and Social Psychology meeting in Austin, Texas, a symposium was held on the latest research on the malleability of time perception and its implications. Work was presented by Jochim Hansen on the way in which the mental representation of a situation influences how quickly time is perceived to pass; if it is processed more concretely, with rich detail and contextual information, time will feel as though it goes by much faster than if it is processed abstractly, with only essential and global aspects coded. Hengchen Dai demonstrated a disproportionate amount of aspirational behaviours (e.g. health, education or career progression) begin at temporal landmarks, such as new weeks, months or years, known as the “fresh start effect”. This may be because these new beginnings draw attention to the passage of time, which allows for psychological distance between the past and the current self. All previous imperfections and bad behaviours are left in the past and a new self can be created. On a similar note, Sam Maglio suggested that the way a person defines the present – which ranged from the current moment to over a year – can determine how they perceive future payoffs, with a shorter definition of the present being associated with higher levels of patience. Furthermore, the simple manipulation of showing participants the statement, “There is no present, there is only the future,” caused them to shorten their perception of the present, and they subsequently reported greater intentions to make long-term financial plans. This could have important policy implications for behaviours like pension savings and quitting smoking.
  3. 3. O Behave • Issue 2 • May 2014 The Importance of Choice Within the behavioural science field lots of techniques for becoming more persuasive have been developed. One of the simplest yet most effective is a phrase that has been found to double the amount of money people give to beggars, increase how much bus fare people give, boost charitable donations and increase participation in voluntary surveys. After conducting a meta-analysis of 42 studies involving over 22,000 participants, the authors concluded that by placing this phrase at the end of a request doubles the likelihood of people complying and saying “yes”. What was this magic phrase the researchers discovered? The phrase was, “But you are free to accept or refuse”. The “But you are free” technique illustrates that when our freedom of choice is reaffirmed we are more likely to comply with the request. This is because it disarms our instinctive rejection of being told what to do. The actual words don’t matter as the phrase, “But obviously do not feel obliged,” was found to be just as effective. This effect has been found to work not only during face-to-face interactions but also over email, albeit to a lesser extent. This is important to keep in mind when developing behaviour change apps and products. In order for them to be successful, the developer must have an appreciation for this sense of autonomy. Design in Mind A new initiative by Professor Paul Dolan, author of MINDSPACE, and Chloe Foy called Design in Mind has been launched to improve our health and wellbeing through the design of our workplaces. As 88% of our time is spent in buildings and vehicles, it is crucial that they have been designed with our health and happiness in mind. Design in Mind combines the knowledge of cutting edge wellbeing research and years of experience of internal design to create workplaces and other spaces designed to optimise happiness and therefore productivity. These are implemented in an iterative test and learn process, to determine their effects on the inhabitants of the space and also establish return on investment. Dolan and Foy have summed up eight key principles of environment design under the acronym SALIENCE, which stands for sound, air, light, image, ergonomics, nature, colour and evidence. These recommendations are based on a range of work from the lab and the field. For example, the principle of nature – that drawing conscious and unconscious attention to plants and nature can have positive effect – is supported by a study on heart surgery patients in intensive care units, which found that those with a picture of trees and water in their room reported less anxiety and needed fewer doses of pain medicine than a control group of patients in a room with blank walls.
  4. 4. O Behave • Issue 2 • May 2014 Behavioural Model Schwartz’s Norm Activation Theory (1977) This model, developed to explain altruistic or “helping” behaviours, describes the process by which personal norms are activated. These are feelings of moral obligation to act, which are free from social norms. Schwartz presents personal norms as arising from an individual’s innate values, but he also describes them as being internalised from social norms. Personal norms are found to be better predictors of altruistic behaviours and to be more effective at predicting a range of pro-environmental behaviours. In theories of both personal and social norms, it is held that norms are constantly present in cognitive processes, but that they only exert a significant influence when they become salient. This theory describes the process by which personal norms are activated. Norm activation essentially involves two stages; the first in which an individual feels an awareness of the consequences for others of their own actions, and the second in which the personal costs of acting are calculated with the result that responsibility may be denied. Thus this model is also good for explaining why people fail to help in certain circumstances. Nudge of the Week Spotted: Eyes on a Metropolitan Police notice in Enfield Studies have shown that pictures of eyes prime more honest and cooperative behaviour. Bateson, Nettle and Roberts (2008) tested different posters above an honesty box, urging people to pay for the tea, coffee and milk they consumed in a university coffee room. They found that when there was a picture of eyes at the top of the sign, people paid almost three times as much as when there was a picture of flowers. The authors suggested that the eyes create the feeling of being watched, so the unwitting participants were more honest. The Metropolitan Police are harnessing these insights by putting eyes on their signs about targeting criminals in the area. This is presumably to reduce antisocial behaviour in the area, even in the absence of police.
  5. 5. O Behave • Issue 2 • May 2014 Guest Post: Introducing… Social Anthropology #ogilvychange specialises in applying insights from the social sciences to give effective solutions to business problems. Although this often takes the form of applying principles derived from cognitive psychology and behavioural science, implicit in our recommendations is an appreciation that as social animals, our cultural context provides a prism through which all psychological processes are refracted. The discipline of Social Anthropology provides one such method to understand these social forces at work. From the Greek ‘the study of mankind’, it is a holistic social science which seeks to examine the differences and similarities between human societies by exploring the variety of lived experience observable within them. Anthropology’s USP is ethnography - a form of participant observation through which practitioners work to observe everyday communal interaction to unpack social constructs and institutions as disparate as gender, kinship, hierarchy and economic transaction. Tracing the connection between these helps to uncover underlying cultural frameworks through which everyday behaviour choices are enacted and interpreted. Although traditionally focused on non-western contexts, anthropologists today are just as likely to be found working in western societies. Both Google and Intel have in-house anthropology teams, and Microsoft is reportedly the second-largest employer of anthropologists in the world. This week anthropologists hit the headlines as part of the Ebola outbreak in West Africa where they are playing a vital role working alongside aid agencies to mediate between western and local understanding of health and the body to advise on culturally sensitive interventions. For a more in-depth introduction to the discipline we recommend taking a look at the journal Cultural Anthropology, which this month moved to become open access to promote wider understanding of the subject. Previous topics covered have included the cultural meaning of branding and counterfeit goods, consumerism and globalization in India and slang and construction of identity in African American youth culture. New Book Cass Sunstein – a luminary of behavioural economics and co-author of Nudge – has written a new book, which was released in April 2014. Why Nudge? The Politics of Libertarian Paternalism explores the moral and legal arguments for choice architecture and the government’s scope to design environments to help people lead longer, healthier and happier lives.
  6. 6. O Behave • Issue 2 • May 2014 Upcoming Events An Evening with Dan Ariely: how to academy Sunday 18th May, 6.45-8.15pm Risk Savvy: How to make good decisions with Gerd Gigerenzer Wednesday 21st May, 6.30-8.00pm UCL’s Theories and Models of Behaviour Change launch event Monday 2nd June, 5.00-7.00pm Nudgestock 2 Friday 6th June, 10.30am-6.00pm Brought to you by: Cíosa Juliet Rebecca Guest Anthropologist @CiosaGarrahan @hulietjodges @rebeccanomics
  7. 7. O Behave • Issue 2 • May 2014 References & Links Tim Harford’s Controversial Take on Behavioural Economics Harford (2014). Behavioural economics and public policy. Joint versus Individual Incentives Cabrera & Cid (2014). Joint-Liability vs. Individual Incentives in the Classroom Lessons from a Field Experiment with Undergraduate Students. pdf Perceptions of Past, Present and Future Dai (2014). Malleable Time Perception and its Implications for Self-Control and Goal Pursuit. pursuit/ The Importance of Choice Carpenter (2013). A meta-analysis of the effectiveness of the “But you are free” compliance-gaining technique. Design in Mind Dolan & Foy (2014). Design in Mind. Stimulating Environments. Guest Post: Introducing Social Anthropology Cultural Anthropology journal Poon (2014). Why Anthropologists Join An Ebola Outbreak Team. outbreak-team