Can You Taste a Brand? 3
Bias of the Month 4
The Power of Female
Guilty Effects of Violent
Video Games 6
The Influence of
Language on Thought 7
Real Life Nudge of the
Upcoming Events 8
CAN YOU TASTE A BRAND?
Cigarette companies understand the effect that branding has over taste perceptions, which is why they fought hard and
created a multimillion pound campaign against plain packaging legislation. New evidence reveals that they were right to
be worried. Recent research conducted on smokers found that when the branding on the cigarette packaging was
removed, participants reported that all the cigarettes tasted the same and that they could no longer differentiate
between the brands (Guillaumier, Bonevski & Paul, 2014). Additionally, further research published this month has
shown that standardised non-branded packs compared to branded packs were perceived to be significantly less
appealing, expected to taste worse and people became less motivated to purchase cigarettes (Brose, Chong, Spinall,
Michie, & McEwen, 2014). With Australia having already implemented plain-packaging and Ireland and other countries
about to follow suit, it appears that the tobacco industry is in trouble as they are losing a key aspect of their business
that has been a major driving force behind its success – their brand!
The world of marketing relies on the notion that brands and brand images matter.
They influence our purchasing decisions and our experience of the product. In
particular, the food and drink industry have found they exert a significant influence on
our taste perceptions, and retrospective evaluations of the taste (Hoegg & Alba, 2007;
Wansink, 2003). The importance of brand images on our taste perception was
highlighted in 2011 when Coca-Cola changed their iconic red can to a white can for
the first time in 125 years to raise awareness of the threatened polar bear species.
This campaign was pulled almost immediately as Coca-Cola experienced a backlash
from customers who were convinced that Coca-Cola not only changed their branding
but changed their recipe as they perceived the taste of Coke in the new white can to
taste different. Of course this wasn’t true!
Guillaumier, A., Bonevski, B., & Paul, C. (2014). Tobacco health warning messages on plain cigarette packs and in television campaigns: a qualitative study with
Australian socioeconomically disadvantaged smokers. Health Education Research, forthcoming.
Brose, L. S., Chong, C. B., Aspinall, E., Michie, S., & McEwen, A. (2014). Effects of standardised cigarette packaging on craving, motivation to stop and perceptions of
cigarettes and packs. Psychology & Health, 29(7), 849-860.
BIAS OF THE MONTH
Have you ever bought a new car, then start seeing it
everywhere and convinced yourself that now everyone’s
buying one? Similarly have you ever heard a new song or
story, then started hearing it everywhere and convinced
yourself everyone now loves it?
More often than not, it’s not that these things are appearing
or happening more frequently, it’s that now we have paid
particular attention to these items (car, song, story etc.),
making them more salient in our minds which in turn leads
us to notice them more frequently in our environment. The
trouble is that most people don’t recognise these instances
as a selection bias and actually believe they are happening
with increased frequency, which can be a disconcerting
feeling. It is also a cognitive bias that contributes to the
feeling that the appearance of certain things or events
couldn't possibly be a coincidence (even though they are).
In the recent Cabinet reshuffle, Cameron promoted ten women, describing the new team as “reflecting modern
Britain”. With only 22% of the UK’s MPs being women, what effect – if any – will these promotions have on the
women of the country?
Latu, Mast, Lammers and Bombari (2013) tested the impact of powerful female politicians on female empowerment
when making a speech about the rise in student fees. They found that female students spoke for 49% longer when
there was a poster of Angela Merkel on the back wall, and 24% longer when the poster featured Hillary Clinton,
relative to when the poster was of Bill Clinton or there was no poster at all. These speeches were also rated as
better by double-blind experimenters and by the students themselves, demonstrating a clear increase in confidence
when exposed to strong female role models. While it is not known if there are any lasting effects, having more
women in positions of power may cause a similar boost in confidence for women in the UK.
THE POWER OF FEMALE POLITICIANS
However, the media coverage of the Cabinet reshuffle could undermine
these effects: Accusations of tokenism and the focus on female MPs’
wardrobes instead of their capability reinforces prejudices that men are more
suited to positions of power. Evidence shows that reminders of gender
stereotypes can be enough to produce conforming behaviour; for example,
reminding students that males are often perceived to be better at maths than
females can decrease girls’ test performances relative to boys’, an effect that
was not found without this reminder. Suggesting the new additions to the
Cabinet are only there to fill quotas or only worth talking about for their choice
of shoes may have the same effect in producing a marked gender difference
between male and female political ambitions. While these promotions are
undoubtedly a positive step, there may still be some unconscious biases –
often perpetuated by media coverage – that can hold women back.
Latu, I.M., Mast, M.S., Lammers, J., & Bombari, D. (2013). Successful female leaders empower women’s behavior in leadership tasks. Journal of Experimental Social
Psychology, 49, 444-448.
English is far from perfect. The Australian aboriginal speakers of the Kuuk Thaagorre language have developed
enhanced directional skills because their language has no terms for left or right; they are instead described using North,
South, East and West. As a result, they can constantly determine what direction they are facing at all times, even in
Keith Chen, an economic professor at Yale found that differences in languages had significant effects on how we think
and plan for the future. He distinguished between two types of languages, a futured language and a futureless language.
Grammar in a futured language like English requires us to tell the difference between the future and the present and
therefore view them as two separate entities, whereas the grammar in a futureless language does not differentiate
between the two . Chen collected data from 76 developing and developed countries and compared households that were
the same in every respect (e.g. income, education, religion, family structure) except language structure. Analysis showed
that futured language speakers saved money 69% less often than their futureless counterparts. It appears that the
absence of a future tense meant futureless speakers saw the future as equally important as now, increasing the
relevance of saving. These patterns have been found to also apply to health and unhealthy habits, with speakers of a
futured language less likely to use birth control, 24% more likely to smoke and 13% more likely to be obese. So although
you would never think it, seemingly small changes between languages can have an impact on our skills, health and
THE INFLUENCE OF LANGUAGE ON THOUGHT
A phenomenon known as the Sapir-Wharf Hypothesis has shown that our
language fundamentally affects how we understand our world. For example,
you may think telling the difference between colours such as yellow and
orange is a mindless and easy task, but spare a thought for Zuni speakers,
who only have one word to represent both these colours consequently they
find this task extremely difficult to complete as they report being unable to see
Chen, M. K. (2013). The effect of language on economic behavior: Evidence from savings rates, health behaviors, and retirement assets. The American Economic
Review, 103(2), 690-731.
New research by Grizzard et al (2014) has found that behaving immorally in a computer game may trigger feelings of guilt
that translate into greater sensitivity to these issues in real life. Participants either played a terrorist or a UN soldier in the
game, and those playing a terrorist reported greater levels of guilt afterwards than those playing a UN soldier, where they
were performing the same acts but with different motivations. The authors suggest that, contrary to the bulk of evidence
linking violent video games to violent behaviour, these games may in fact lead to better behaviour in real life.
However, on closer inspection these findings are not necessarily incompatible with previous research, though the
explanation of them may be. A short-term initial effect of heightened guilt as found here may give way to neural
desensitisation following repeated exposure, which is frequently reported in the literature. Additionally, the paradigm of
terrorist vs. UN soldier is a lot more morally absolute than a game like Grand Theft Auto, where most of the interactions
occur between equally amoral characters, and therefore may produce a more pronounced guilt response.
GUILTY EFFECTS OF VIOLENT VIDEO GAMES
The majority of research in this area does suggest that even playing these games for a
short time can lead to more violent behaviour. Engelhardt et al (2011) found not only that
participants with low previous exposure to violent video games showed a reduced neural
response to violent images after playing one for twenty-five minutes, but that this reduced
response was directly related to subsequent greater aggression towards other
participants, as measured in a competitive reaction time task. This complements other
research that has found reduced heart rate and galvanic skin response to violent films
following playing a violent video game, all indicators of reduced sensitivity to violence.
One study even found the use of violent video games was positively associated with
antisocial behaviour in a clinical sample of juvenile delinquents.
Further research needs to be done to determine whether violent video games with a moral
message can promote good behaviour, but for the time being the evidence suggests the
negative effects may outweigh any positive ones.
Grizzard, M., Tamborini, R., Lewis, R.J., & Prabhu, S. (2014). Being Bad in a Video Game Can Make Us More Morally Sensitive. Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and
Social Networking, in press.
Spotted: Price Anchor in Carluccio’s, Upper Street
Carluccio’s may have included the price of a Vespa in their menu for
those who want to buy an Italian scooter with their dinner, but more
likely, they have put it there as a price anchor. Ariely, Loewenstein and
Prelec (2003) found that asking students the last two digits of their
social security numbers influenced how much they were willing to bid on
a bottle of wine – those with higher numbers bid more, despite this
figure being completely irrelevant to the wine. With the £2,771 figure for
the Vespa at the bottom of the menu for comparison, customers may
find the prices of Carluccio’s entrées more reasonable.
REAL LIFE NUDGE OF THE MONTH
London Behavioural Economics Network Monthly Drinks
Tuesday 12th August, 6.45pm
Measuring Behavior Conference 2014
Wednesday 27th – Friday 29th August
Conference: Decision Making Bristol 2014
Tuesday 9th – Friday 12th September
BROUGHT TO YOU BY