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O Behave! Issue 15
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O Behave! Issue 20

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The latest in psychology and behavioural economics from #ogilvychange

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O Behave! Issue 20

  1. 1. O BEHAVE! Issue 20 • November 2015
  2. 2. Tasting with Our Eyes 3 Bias of the Month 4 Saving Money with Counterfeit Coins 5 Infectious Rudeness 6 A Second Chance at a First Impression 7 Real Life Nudge of the Month 8 Upcoming Events 8 CONTENTS
  3. 3. TASTING WITH OUR EYES A growing body of scientific research now suggests that our experience of taste and flavour is determined to a large degree by the expectation that we generate (often automatically) prior to tasting. Such expectations can result from branding, labelling and environmental factors such as cutlery, which was discussed in a previous edition of O Behave! (food was rated as significantly more pleasant, and perceived to be of higher quality, when tasted with a heavy metal spoon than a lighter metallic-looking plastic spoon). Sight, and most often colour, that is the cue used by the brain in order to help identify sources of food and make predictions about their likely taste and flavour. A large body of lab research has demonstrated that adding more food colouring to a food item increases the perceived intensity of its flavour. As environmental cues that are separate from the food items (e.g. cutlery) and colour all influence the taste/flavour of food, Harrar, Piqueras-Fiszman, and Spence (2011) wanted to investigate whether environmental cues such as the colour of the dinnerware may also impact the taste/flavour of whatever foodstuff happens to be served from it. They asked participants to sample sweet or salty popcorn from four differently- coloured bowls: white, blue, green and red. The participants reported that salty popcorn tasted sweeter when taken from a blue or red bowl compared to a white bowl, while the sweet popcorn was rated as tasting saltier when taken from the blue bowl compared to a white bowl. This interesting piece of research shows that it is not just the colour of the food items that might influence their taste due to expectations, but even just the colour the of the plate that the food is served on has similar influences. Harrar, V., Piqueras-Fiszman, B., & Spence, C. (2011). There’s more to taste in a coloured bowl. Perception-London, 40(7), 880..
  4. 4. BIAS OF THE MONTH Gu, Y., Botti, S., & Faro, D. (2013). Turning the Page: The Impact of Choice Closure on Satisfaction. Journal of Consumer Research, 40 (2), 268-283. Choice closure The relationship between mind and body is a complex one, but research suggests that a physical act of closure can make people mentally more satisfied with their choices. Gu, Botti and Faro (2013) gave participants a menu with 24 different teas to choose from, and told them that, once they had made their decision, they would be unable to change their minds. They found that participants who were instructed to close the menu after making their decision were more satisfied than those who had not been given this instruction. The authors concluded that closing the menu gave enough of a sense of closure to reduce any post-choice regret. This act of closure must be performed by the decision maker, be performed after the decision has been made and be clearly linked to the decision itself to be effective - like the feeling of satisfaction from closing your laptop after a long day at work.
  5. 5. SAVING MONEY WITH COUNTERFEIT COINS Akbas, M., Ariely, D., Robalino, D.A., & Weber, M. (2015). How to Help the Poor to Save a Bit: Evidence from a Field Experiment in Kenya. Duke Working Papers. Motiving people to save is something that all governments, banks and even the individuals in question all struggle with. One of the most popular interventions used to encourage people to save are financial incentives in the form of matching: matching savings rates by a certain percentage. Although these financial incentives have had promising results, they are obviously costly to implement. Is it possible that psychological interventions could provide cheaper and hence more practical solutions whilst also being just as effective? This is what Ariely and colleagues (2015) sought to investigate looking specifically at individuals with low and regular income. The first psychological intervention they implemented sought to use emotion to motivate saving behaviour. This came in the form of a reminder text message framed as though is was from their children asking them to save for their future. The second psychological intervention was a tangible gold metal coin which had the numbers for each week of the six-month savings period that partipants could scratch off when they deposited money that week. The idea behind this coin was that saving small deposits towards a long-term saving goal can seem abstract and insignificant, so the metal coin acts a as a tangible intrinsic reward and reminder for saving. The financial reward was a match of weekly savings (match of 10% or 20% of weekly savings up to a certain amount). Participants in the control condition received weekly reminders and balance reporting via text messages. Which intervention do you think was most successful? Those in the coin condition saved the highest amount on average and more than twice as much as those in the control condition. These results support many other studies which show that our financial decisions involve subtle psychological aspects and policy-makers and product designers should take these influences into account to change behaviour instead of relying solely on financial incentives.
  6. 6. INFECTIOUS RUDENESS We’re all aware of the power of social norms and how we mimic those around us, from the trivial (reusing towels and buying pretzels) to the important (who we vote for and how much we weigh). It seems that rudeness may also be contagious, with even mildly rude interactions having a lasting effect on behaviour in a new series of studies by Foulk, Woolum and Erez (2015). Foulk, T., Woolum, A., & Erez, A. (2015). Catching Rudeness Is Like Catching a Cold: The Contagion Effects of Low-Intensity Negative Behaviors. Journal of Applied Psychology, in press. In the first part of the study, participants who observed the experimenter being rude to a confederate, another participant who arrived late and was either politely asked to reschedule or berated for being late and asked to leave, were primed to recognise scrambled rude words (e.g. tactless) more quickly than friendly (e.g. helpful) or aggressive (e.g. savage) words. This demonstrates that these concepts were more salient for those who had been exposed to rudeness. In the next experiment, participants were asked to play the role of a bookseller, first watching a video of an employee at the bookshop dealing with a customer either politely or rudely, then given an email from a customer to reply to. This was either neutral, aggressive (“Your incompetent staff must have lost my order”) or rude (“I’m really surprised by this as EVERYBODY said you guys give really good customer service?”). The video did not affect the way in which people responded to the neutral or aggressive emails, but it did change the way those given the rude email interpreted and responded to it: those who had watched the polite film were more likely to give a neutral response, while those who watched the rude film were far more likely to be hostile. The final experiment looked at the behaviour of participants who had interacted with a rude partner in a negotiation task. After each negotiation, participants had the choice to split resources evenly, take more for themselves, or destroy all resources, ensuring their partner received nothing but they also lost out themselves. Participants were more likely to choose the latter hostile option after dealing with a rude partner, even up to a week later, which shows how low-level rudeness can be contagious for a long period of time. This has huge implications for our personal and professional lives, with moderately rude interactions potentially being passed along through colleagues, friends and family. Being aware of its infectiousness and watching your own behaviour after someone has been rude could break this cycle.
  7. 7. A SECOND CHANCE AT A FIRST IMPRESSION We place a huge amount of emphasis on first impressions, and evidence shows that our snap decisions often turn out to be correct. In one study, participants shown a thirty second clip of a lecturer could accurately estimate their teaching ability, as correlated with the lecturer’s review scores from their students at the end of the year (Ambady & Rosenthal, 1993). Even reducing the clip to six seconds didn’t reduce the participants’ accuracy. This isn’t limited to teaching ability: we can also accurately estimate a person’s level of extraversion after viewing a photo of them for 50 milliseconds (Borkenau, Brecke, Möttig & Paelecke, 2009), and predict male and female sexuality from a brief exposure to a static or moving face (Rule & Ambady, 2008; Rule, Ambady & Hallett, 2009). Furthermore, there is evidence to suggest that these initial judgements influence our overall attitudes; participants in one study could predict with almost 70% accuracy who had been the winning candidate in previous Senate elections just by facial appearance, which implies this could also have swayed the voters (Todorov, Mandisodza, Goren & Hall, 2005). Mann, T.C., & Ferguson, M.J. (2015). Can We Undo Our First Impressions? The Role of Reinterpretation in Reversing Implicit Evaluations. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 108 (6), 823-849. But is there anything that can be done if you mess it up first time around? Mann and Ferguson (2015) have shown that first impressions can be reversed, but only with new information that explains why this impression was formed to begin with. They introduced participants to a character named Francis West, who had broken into two houses on his street, causing a great deal of damage, and measured their first impressions which were naturally quite negative. One group of participants was then told that he was motivated to break into these houses to save children inside from a fire that was spreading. With the antisocial behaviour explained with an altruistic motive, these participants revised their first impression and were much more positive towards Francis, even on an unconscious level when implicit testing was used. Interestingly, this effect seems to occur only when the positive information directly explains the bad behaviour: in another experiment, participants were told about the break in (but not the fire), but also that Francis had once saved a baby from an oncoming train at great personal risk. While this reduced their negative evaluation, it did not have the same ameliorating effect as the explanatory story. This suggests that, if you do make a prat of yourself on a first meeting with somebody, you can make up for it by explaining why (nerves etc), but not by doing something positive but unrelated.
  8. 8. Spotted: Descriptive Norm in Dublin We are social animals and look to others for cues to what behaviour is appropriate and normal, particularly people like us. When utilising social norms to influence behaviour, there are two main types: descriptive – what people are doing, or injunctive – what people should be doing. Descriptive norms have been found to be more successful in changing behaviour. Dublin’s overground system the Luas used this type of norm to get passengers to pay their fare by making the social norm specific to people standing at that particular station (Windy Arbour) and utilising the descriptive norm that “the vast majority of you are paying your fare”. REAL LIFE NUDGE OF THE MONTH UPCOMING EVENTS The Behavioural Science of Self-Control Friday 4th December, 9.00-5.00pm University of Stirling Mastering Strategic Decision Making Monday 14th – Friday 18th December Amsterdam, Netherlands Behavioural Boozeonomics with the London Behavioural Economics Network Monday 14th December, 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
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    Nov. 30, 2015

The latest in psychology and behavioural economics from #ogilvychange

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