Tag Archives: persuasion

Cialdini’s Principles of Persuasion and the Importance of Recognising “Enforced Compliance”

Influ­ence: The Psy­cho­logy of Per­sua­sion is Robert Cialdini’s 1984 book dis­cuss­ing what he calls the six fun­da­ment­al psy­cho­lo­gic­al prin­ciples of com­pli­ance: con­sist­ency, recip­roc­a­tion, social proof, author­ity, lik­ing and scarcity.

The con­clu­sion to Cialdini’s book points out why, in this increas­ingly com­plex world, res­ist­ing attempts at “enforced com­pli­ance” (decep­tion) through these key prin­ciples is as import­ant as recog­nising and respond­ing to truth­ful instances of their imple­ment­a­tion:

Because tech­no­logy can evolve much faster than we can, our nat­ur­al capa­city to pro­cess inform­a­tion is likely to be increas­ingly inad­equate to handle the sur­feit of change, choice, and chal­lenge that is char­ac­ter­ist­ic of mod­ern life. More and more fre­quently, we will find ourselves in the pos­i­tion of the lower animals—with a men­tal appar­at­us that is unequipped to deal thor­oughly with the intric­acy and rich­ness of the out­side envir­on­ment. Unlike the anim­als, whose cog­nit­ive powers have always been rel­at­ively defi­cient, we have cre­ated our own defi­ciency by con­struct­ing a rad­ic­ally more com­plex world. But the con­sequence of our new defi­ciency is the same as that of the anim­als’ long-stand­ing one. When mak­ing a decision, we will less fre­quently enjoy the lux­ury of a fully con­sidered ana­lys­is of the total situ­ation but will revert increas­ingly to a focus on a single, usu­ally reli­able fea­ture of it.

When those single fea­tures are truly reli­able, there is noth­ing inher­ently wrong with the short­cut approach of nar­rowed atten­tion and auto­mat­ic response to a par­tic­u­lar piece of inform­a­tion. The prob­lem comes when some­thing causes the nor­mally trust­worthy cues to coun­sel us poorly, to lead us to erro­neous actions and wrong­headed decisions.

The Licensing Effect and the Unhealthy Habit of Vitamin Supplements

The licens­ing effect is the phe­nomen­on whereby pos­it­ive actions or decisions taken now increase neg­at­ive or uneth­ic­al decisions taken later. I’ve writ­ten about this pre­vi­ously, before I was aware of a gen­er­al effect:

A Taiwanese study has provided us with a new instance of the licens­ing effect in action, this time with vit­am­in sup­ple­ments. The study found that tak­ing vit­am­in pills or diet­ary sup­ple­ments for health pro­tec­tion increases unhealthy and risky beha­viour.

After­wards, com­pared with placebo par­ti­cipants, the par­ti­cipants who thought they’d taken a vit­am­in pill rated indul­gent but harm­ful activ­it­ies like cas­u­al sex and excess­ive drink­ing as more desir­able; healthy activ­it­ies like yoga as less desir­able; and they were more likely to choose a free coupon for a buf­fet meal, as opposed to a free coupon for a healthy organ­ic meal (these asso­ci­ations held even after con­trolling for par­ti­cipants’ usu­al intake of vit­am­in pills). […]

The vit­am­in-takers also felt more invul­ner­able than the placebo par­ti­cipants, as revealed by their agree­ment with state­ments like “Noth­ing can harm me”. Fur­ther ana­lys­is sug­ges­ted that it was these feel­ings of invul­ner­ab­il­ity that medi­ated the asso­ci­ation between tak­ing a pos­tu­lated vit­am­in pill and the unhealthy atti­tudes and decisions.

Busi­nes­s­Week also points out that this loop of bene­vol­ent and self-indul­gent beha­viour is plainly evid­ent in the shop­ping habits of con­sumers… some­thing that mar­keters know all about.

via @vaughanbell

Apple’s Implementation of the Duration-of-Exposure Effect: Screens at 70Ëš

Hours after writ­ing about the dur­a­tion-of-expos­ure effect (whereby merely touch­ing an unowned object increases our attach­ment to it and how much we value it), a post came into my feed read­er point­ing out how Apple Inc. take advant­age of this effect in their “painstak­ingly cal­ib­rated” stores.

Car­mine Gallo, provid­ing a glimpse into his upcom­ing book, The Apple Exper­i­ence, explain­s how every aspect of an Apple Store is designed to foster “multi­s­ens­ory own­er­ship exper­i­ences”. This on the (very spe­cif­ic) tilt of laptop screens (from anoth­er great art­icle on the top­ic):

The note­book com­puters dis­played on the store’s tab­letops and coun­ters are set out, each day, to exactly the same angle. That angle being, pre­cisely, 70 degrees: not as rigid as a table-per­pen­dic­u­lar 90 degrees, but open enough – and, also, closed enough – for screens’ con­tent to remain vis­ible and invit­ing to would-be typers and tinker­ers.

The point […] is to get people to touch the devices. “The main reas­on note­book com­puters screens are slightly angled is to encour­age cus­tom­ers to adjust the screen to their ideal view­ing angle,” [Gallo] says – “in oth­er words, to touch the com­puter.”

A tact­ile exper­i­ence with an Apple product begets loy­alty to Apple products, the think­ing goes – which means that the store exists to imprint a brand impres­sion on vis­it­ors even more than it exists to extract money from them. “The own­er­ship exper­i­ence is more import­ant than a sale,” Gallo notes. Which means that the store – and every single detail cre­at­ing the exper­i­ence of it – are optim­ized for cus­tom­ers’ per­son­al indul­gence. Apple wants you to touch stuff, to play with it, to make it your own. Its note­book com­puters are tilted at just the right angle to beck­on you to their screens – and, more import­antly, to their key­boards.

When Apple do it right, they do it per­fectly.

via Kot­tke

Increasing Attachment and Valuation Through Touch

The endow­ment effect is old news: the amount that we value an object increases once we take own­er­ship of it. The ‘exten­ded ver­sion’ shows that the impact of the endow­ment effect increases with time: our valu­ation of an object increases more and more as the amount of time that we own it also increases. This is known as the length-of-own­er­ship effect.

A recent study pub­lished in the journ­al Judge­ment and Decision Mak­ing1 has taken an even deep­er look at this effect: study­ing how touch­ing an object increases both our attach­ment to that object and how much we value it… even if we don’t own it (also in pdf). Here are the key find­ings of this ‘pre-own­er­ship expos­ure study’:

  • Touch­ing an object will increase our attach­ment to it and valu­ation of it, wheth­er we own it or not.
  • The longer we touch or handle an un-owned object, the great­er we will value it and feel attached to it.
  • Simply think­ing about an un-owned object increases our valu­ation of it and how much we feel attached to it.

Related find­ings, cited in this art­icle:

  • If an object is being sold at auc­tion, the amount that we value the object will increase as the length of the auc­tion increases.
  • Own­ing a coupon for an object increases our emo­tion­al attach­ment to that object.
  • Mak­ing an item the “focus of a com­par­is­on” increases its attract­ive­ness and the prob­ab­il­ity that it would later be selec­ted. We will also feel more attached to the item and will value it high­er.

via @stevesilberman and Life­hack­er (sug­gest­ing that this dur­a­tion-of-expos­ure effect’ is an explan­a­tion for why we have cluttered homes.)

1 What, you’re not read­ing Judge­ment and Decision Mak­ing? You should; it’s bimonthly and open access.

Dark Patterns for Marketers, or: Practical Behavioural Economics

Tak­ing a sys­tem­at­ic approach to imple­ment­ing find­ings from beha­vi­our­al eco­nom­ics into a sales cycle can “unlock sig­ni­fic­ant value”, accord­ing to McKinsey’s Ned Welch. To help busi­ness do exactly that, Welch–in what, at times, reads a bit like a ‘dark pat­terns guide for marketers’–has writ­ten an art­icle look­ing at four prac­tic­al tech­niques from beha­vi­our­al eco­nom­ics that mar­keters should use to per­suade pur­chasers. The tech­niques:

  1. Make a product’s cost less pain­ful.
  2. Har­ness the power of a default option.
  3. Don’t over­whelm con­sumers with choice.
  4. Pos­i­tion your pre­ferred option care­fully.

There’s not much new here, but the sum­mar­ies are nice and suc­cinct. From item four, I found this bit of gro­cery store choice archi­tec­ture inter­est­ing:

Anoth­er way to pos­i­tion choices relates not to the products a com­pany offers but to the way it dis­plays them. Our research sug­gests, for instance, that ice cream shop­pers in gro­cery stores look at the brand first, fla­vor second, and price last. Organ­iz­ing super­mar­ket aisles accord­ing to way con­sumers prefer to buy spe­cif­ic products makes cus­tom­ers both hap­pi­er and less likely to base their pur­chase decisions on price—allowing retail­ers to sell high­er-priced, high­er-mar­gin products. (This explains why aisles are rarely organ­ized by price.) For ther­mo­stats, by con­trast, people gen­er­ally start with price, then func­tion, and finally brand. The mer­chand­ise lay­out should there­fore be quite dif­fer­ent.

via Nudge

(If you don’t have a McKin­sey account, you can read the art­icle here or here (PDF).)