Behaviour Change

PROPAGANDA FOR CHANGE is a project created by the students of Behaviour Change (ps359) and Professor Thomas Hills at the Psychology Department of the University of Warwick. This work was supported by funding from Warwick's Institute for Advanced Teaching and Learning.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Deadpool = dead romantic?



‘Deadpool’ – looks like your typical RomCom “girly” movie right? Wrong. ‘Deadpool’ is a superhero action and comedy film, rated R for its strong violence and language, sexual content and graphic nudity. This definitely classifies it as your typical “male” film. However, thanks to a clever marketing campaign, the team behind ‘Deadpool’ have convinced females all over the world that they want to see this movie. The marketing team have recently released a string of adverts depicting the lead character out of costume embracing his girlfriend, added a romantic colour scheme and the tagline "True love never dies". Now, although it only takes a quick Google to see what the film is actually about, it would seem a lot of girls have been persuaded by the poster alone that they want to go and see it with their boyfriends, as this SMS exchange shows:

This poster is making use of a persuasive psychology techniques identified by Hovland (1953): The Yale Attitude Change Approach. Hovland suggested that persuasion is influenced by 3 factors: the source, the message and the audience. Source characteristics can include credibility, attractiveness or similarity to self. In 1951 Hovland and Weiss found that US college students who read an article on nuclear submarines were more easily persuaded when the article was written by Robert Oppenheimer (and expert) than a Soviet news agency (non-expert). Chaiken (1979) found that experimenters trying to persuade undergraduates to sign a petition were more successful if they were attractive than if they were not, as shown in the table of results below. Finally, Simons, Berkowitz & Moyer (1970) showed that similarity to self in terms of shared attitudes, appearance or social categories made for more persuasive messages.



The Deadpool movie poster plays on these three areas. Generally, movie posters are considered to be a credible form of representation for a film. People will often choose a film to watch dependent on if it “looks like something” they’d enjoy. So by making a poster that looks like something a typical “female” would like, they are persuading more females to come and watch the film. Additionally, the film features attractive actors and by showing the lead male out of his superhero costume (which features a full mask), this increases attractiveness and therefore persuasion. Finally, if a girlfriend sees themselves as a typical, romantic “girly” girl, the poster depicts a similarity of social categories (it involves people in a relationship) and shared attitudes (e.g. “Oh how romantic, what a beautiful relationship, that’s the kind of love I want”). All of this encourages and persuades a girlfriend that they definitely want to go and see the film with their boyfriend for Valentines. Well played Marvel, well played.

References:
- Chaiken, S. (1979). Communicator physical attractiveness and persuasion. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 37, 1387-1397.
- Hovland, C. I., Janis, I. L., & Kelley, H. H. (1953). Communication and Persuasion: Psychological Studies of Opinion change. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.
- Hovland, C. I., & Weiss, W. (1951). The influence of source credibility on communication effectiveness. Public Opinion Quarterly, 15, 635-650.

- Simons, H. W., Berkowitz, N. N., & Moyer, R. J. (1970) Similarity, credibility and attitude change: A review and theory. Psychological Bulletin, 73, 1-16.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Would you like a free sample?

Whilst shopping over Christmas, I constantly found myself bombarded with free samples from vendors, who had set up charming stalls outside their usual place of commerce, as they looked to provide shoppers with small gestures of seasonal goodwill. At first I took the samples, often bite-sized treats from food companies, and then continued on my way without buying anything. However, I slowly started to feel a creeping dread at passing these vendors that was accompanied by a sense of guilt, because I was not buying anything. As I swerved round people to distance myself from the samples I began to question why I felt so guilty at taking a sample which was a simple no-strings-attached offering from a huge company, to whom a tiny slice of pretzel was nothing.


Whilst there is nothing malicious in offering a free sample (companies do it to expose customers to their products), it is taking advantage of the rule of reciprocity (Cialidini, 1993). This rule dictates that when we receive a gift from another person we feel obliged to reciprocate this. Thus, when a sales vendor gifts us with a free sample, we often feel obliged to give them something in return. There is a wealth of evidence to support the rule of reciprocity. For example, in 1976 social psychologist Phillip Kunz sent out just over 500 Christmas cards to people who would not know he was, and received over 150 cards back, as people felt that they should repay this gesture in kind. However, the rule does not dictate that the reciprocated gift need be the same. For example, it would be odd to return the gift of a pretzel sample with a pretzel sample, so the only way that this can be achieved is through buying a product.



Moreover, my feeling of obligation was further moderated by my belief in a just world. As I took the free sample and carried on with my shopping, I began to feel as if I was being unfair towards to the sales vendor who was being nice to me by giving me an unsolicited gift. The combination of my belief in a just world and the rule of reciprocity made me believe that the sales vendor deserved something in return for being nice. Edlund et al (2007) demonstrated this effect by replicating Regan’s (1971) experiment in which a participant is given a bottle of drink by a confederate, and is then asked to comply in some way. In this case they were asked to buy tickets to an Alumni event for $2. Edlund et al found that participants bought more tickets if they were given a gift, and that this was moderated by their belief in a just world; participants with a higher belief bought more than those with a low belief.


Fig 1. A table to show the number of charity tickets bought by people who either received a gift or not, as a function of their belief in a just world.

This study is an example of the rule of reciprocation and how it induces people to return a gift. The genius behind offering free samples lies in the elicitation of an uninvited debt between the company and the consumer, which is often repaid unfairly by the consumer in favour of the company. For example, in the case of the pretzel sample, there is nothing on the menu which is to the value of a small slither of pretzel and so to reciprocate the gift I end up buying a whole pretzel which is obviously favourable to the company who get a large return on their small ‘gift’. However, now that I’m wise to their sneaky technique to make me feel guilty and buy their products, I am going to make a concentrated effort to walk past the free sample vendor a number of times, in a variety of different disguises now to balance out all the pretzels I have been guilt-tripped into buying.

References

Cialdini, R. B. (1993). Influence: Science and practice (3rd ed.). New York: HarperCollins.
Edlund, J. E., Sagarin, B. J., Johnson, B. S. (2007). Reciprocity and the belief in a just world. Personality and Individual Differences 43, 589-96.
Kunz, P.R., & Woolcott, M. (1976). Season's greetings: From my status to yours. Social Science Research, 5, 269-278.
Regan, D. T. (1971). Effects of a favor and liking on compliance. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 7,627-639.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Unlimited Next Day Delivery? Hell Yeah!: The High Cost of Cheap Delivery




Now, I’m sure any avid online shoppers (which would be the vast majority of students – especially just after that sweet student loan drops) can relate to the well-known struggle that is delivery cost. You take your time browsing through the sale section for items that you frankly don’t really need, or just scrolling through Office’s trainers as a means of procrastination when you find something you want! You’ve accepted the price and head for the checkout however the delivery conditions are not as attractive as the Nikes you’re about to buy. Standard delivery roughly stands (pun fail?) around the £3/£4 benchmark and the ideal next day delivery will set you back a good £5-£7. It always seems that no matter your basket total (be it £ or £££) that delivery charge always has you umm-ing and ahh-ing.

What some companies have done to resolve this dilemma (just kidding, to get you to spend more money) is to throw in a little deal whereby spending over a certain threshold paves the way for the oh so very attractive free delivery. But the marketing team behind Asos have gone a step further. The largely renowned online fashion and beauty retailer have introduced Asos Premier Delivery whereby a cheeky £9.95  gets you unlimited next day delivery all year round. Now to the average person, this looks like a great way to save money. Surely Asos have made a mistake and this would mean they end up spending more on express delivery, right? Wrong.

The clever wits over at Asos have delivered (pun not intended) the classic Loss Leader technique to us. This model dictates that if a business provides an item/service with an extremely low (or no) charge, it will result in an initial loss. However, in doing so, they will attract more customers into stores (or in this case on to the webpages). This results in them buying other (or more) products/services which ultimately makes the business more money $$$! (Hess & Gerstner, 1987). For example Gillette's use of the loss leader model cut razor handle prices extremely low but still turned over a hairy profit by the mass sales on disposable razor blades. In sum, Asos Premier appeals to shoppers as it means they don’t have to worry about the bane that is delivery costs/times but what they don’t realise is this invites them to shop on Asos more frequently and thus spend more money.

This shrewd manoeuvre is also a form of membership; shoppers are subscribing to a year's supply of unlimited delivery. Research by Meyer-Waarden (2008) generally concluded that membership holders spent significantly more than non-members did.

Table 1. Quantitative data on consumer habits exhibited by members and non-members of the given supermarket. 

Note - The Zones represent different geographical areas.

The table above (Meyer-Waarden, 2008) depicts the significant (p < 0.0001) differences between member and non-member consumer behaviour whereby members had a higher average and total store basket amount per year and purchased more often than non-members per year. These patterns were also consistent across location. The idea behind this is that being a member is a form of commitment between the customer and company (they commit to free delivery and I, essentially, commit to placing orders). In a sense, committing to unlimited annual delivery implies you will and do shop there frequently over the course of the year, therefore subscribing to this cheeky deal encourages us to be consistent with this idea.

All in all, although Asos seem to be losing out on the money they could be making if Asos Premier didn’t exist (</3), the effect this combined strategy has on spending behaviour results in a higher number of overall sales which covers the cost of the delivery loss.


References:

Hess, J. D., & Gerstner, E. (1987). Loss leader pricing and rain check policy. Marketing  
                        Science,  6,358- 374.
Meyer-Waarden, L. (2008). The influence of loyalty programme membership on customer                             purchase behaviour. European Journal of Marketing, 42, 87-114.


"Should I Order it?" Why Not? You've Got Unlimited Next Day Delivery, Remember !?





Now, I’m sure any avid online shoppers (which would be the vast majority of students – especially just after that sweet student loan drops) can relate to the well-known struggle that is delivery cost. You take your time browsing through the sale section for items that you frankly don’t really need, or just scrolling through Office’s trainers as a means of procrastination when you find something you want! You’ve accepted the price and head for the checkout however the delivery conditions are not as attractive as the Nikes you’re about to buy. Standard delivery roughly stands (pun fail?) around the £3/£4 benchmark and the ideal next day delivery will set you back a good £5-£7. It always seems that no matter your basket total (be it £ or £££) that delivery charge always has you umm-ing and ahh-ing.

What some companies have done to resolve this dilemma (just kidding, to get you to spend more money) is to throw in a little deal whereby spending over a certain threshold paves the way for the oh so very attractive free delivery. But the marketing team behind Asos have gone a step further. The largely renowned online fashion and beauty retailer have introduced Asos Premier Delivery whereby a cheeky £9.95  gets you unlimited next day delivery all year round. Now to the average person, this looks like a great way to save money. Surely Asos have made a mistake and this would mean they end up spending more on express delivery, right? Wrong.

The clever wits over at Asos have delivered (pun not intended) the classic Loss Leader technique to us. This model dictates that if a business provides an item/service with an extremely low (or no) charge, it will result in an initial loss. However, in doing so, they will attract more customers into stores (or in this case on to the webpages). This results in them buying other (or more) products/services which ultimately makes the business more money $$$! (Hess & Gerstner, 1987). For example Gillette's use of the loss leader model cut razor handle prices extremely low but still turned over a hairy profit by the mass sales on disposable razor blades. In sum, Asos Premier appeals to shoppers as it means they don’t have to worry about the bane that is delivery costs/times but what they don’t realise is this invites them to shop on Asos more frequently and thus spend more money.

This shrewd manoeuvre is also a form of membership; shoppers are subscribing to a year's supply of unlimited delivery. Research by Meyer-Waarden (2008) generally concluded that membership holders spent significantly more than non-members did.

Table 1. Quantitative data on consumer habits exhibited by members and non-members of the supermarkets.

Note - The Zones represent different geographical areas.

The table above (Meyer-Waarden, 2008) depicts the significant (p < 0.0001) differences between member and non-member consumer behaviour whereby members had a higher average and total store basket amount per year and purchased more often than non-members per year. These patterns were also consistent across location. The idea behind this is that being a member is a form of commitment between the customer and company (they commit to free delivery and I, essentially, commit to placing orders). In a sense, committing to unlimited annual delivery implies you will and do shop there frequently over the course of the year, therefore subscribing to this cheeky deal encourages us to be consistent with this idea.

All in all, although Asos seem to be losing out on the money they could be making if Asos Premier didn’t exist (</3), the effect this combined strategy has on spending behaviour results in a higher number of overall sales which covers the cost of the delivery loss.


References:
Hess, J. D., & Gerstner, E. (1987). Loss leader pricing and rain check policy. Marketing Science, 6,358- 374.
Meyer-Waarden, L. (2008). The influence of loyalty programme membership on customer         purchase behaviour. European Journal of Marketing, 42, 87-114.


Damola Adebari

Friday, February 5, 2016

Quality over Quantity - An Alternative Use of the 'That's-Not-All' Technique




In the above advertisement for Oral B toothpaste, A dentist appears onscreen and makes the extraordinary claim that 1 in 2 people suffer from gum problems (this would be 32 million people in the UK alone). The dentist explains how plaque can lead to such gum problems and then goes on to explain how Oral B toothpaste (the product being advertised) can tackle this. Shortly after, the dentist then tells the audience how the toothpaste also benefits several other areas of oral hygiene, with a list of these areas appearing onscreen soon after.

While the presence of a dentist (a perceived expert on oral hygiene) means that the principle of source credibility is obviously applicable here, the advert also uses a slightly nuanced version of the ‘that’s-not-all’ (TNA) technique. Rather than employing the oft-used ‘two for the price of one/buy one get one free’ method, the emphasis here is on product quality rather than quantity. Specifically, the dentist outlines the main selling point of the product (that it can prevent plaque and thus reduce the risk of gum problems) and then goes on to explain how the product can benefit the user in several other ways. By following up the main selling point with an additional list of other ones, the advert attempts to get the audience to think, “So this toothpaste can stop me from getting gum disease, but hold on, wait, it also does all these other things as well! I’d be getting so much value for my money if I went with this toothpaste.” Thus, the advert applies the TNA technique to the features of the product to increase the viewers’ perceptions of the product’s worth in an attempt to induce compliance.


Figure 1: A bar chart comparing the percentage buying rate in the TNA condition with the control condition.

In a well-known study, Burger (1986) investigated the influence of the TNA technique on compliance. The setting of a psychology bake sale was used to investigate this persuasive technique. In the experimental condition, subjects who inquired about the price of a cup cake were told to “wait a second”, and a brief exchange between the first seller and the second seller briefly ensued. Shortly after, the seller then produced two cookies and told the customer that they were included with the price of the cupcake. In the control condition, the potential buyer was informed of the two additional cookies as soon as they were told of the price. (In a similar vein, the advert above features an initial selling point which is then followed up with additional different selling points, rather than presenting all aspects of the product simultaneously.) As illustrated in the graph above, it was found that more subjects purchased products in the experimental condition (73% buying rate) than in the control condition (40% buying rate), demonstrating the increased compliance induced by the TNA technique.

Liam Ward

References

Burger, J. M. (1986). Increasing compliance by improving the deal: The that's-not-all technique. Journalist of Personality and Social Psychology, 51(2), 277.


How to improve your child's performance in school .... Not rewards but interests

It is in a parent's nature for them to want their child to succeed in their studies, and they are willing to put in a lot of effort to try to come up with a variety of ways to motivate their child to work hard and persist through the hard work. This is also the same for my parents. Since the year of the GCSEs, my parents have started to reward me each year if I was able to obtain good results, the rewards range from game consoles to increasing my allowance. This system have proved to be very effective, but only for the first year, when I was able to achieve fairly good GCSE results. Since then, not only have I failed to work hard at school, I have also failed to persist with my interests, and have turned into someone who, ironically, tries hard to avoid hard work.


Surely, giving out incentives must be one of the most traditional and frequently used ways for motivating others. So why did this happen?

The reason for this may be because of effort justification and overjustification.


Effort justification is a way to reduce cognitive dissonance and is when people are more likely to like what they are doing if they have worked hard for it. While overjustification is when intrinsic motivation within a person is undermined in situations when people are told that they are doing it for an extrinsic reward.

In 1975, Lepper & Greene asked 80 pre-school students to participate in their study on investigating the effects of extrinsic rewards on intrinsic motivation. In the study, the students were asked to play with a set of puzzle. They were then divided into two groups. The students in the expected reward condition were told that if they were able to complete the puzzle, they will be able to play with other toys; while the students in the unexpected reward group were not told about the toys. They have found that even though the expected reward group have completed their puzzle in a shorter period of time, they are also significantly less likely to continue to play with the puzzle later on (refer to Figure 1).


The results from this study also coincide with their previous study which was done in 1974, when they asked children to draw pictures. They have found that the expected award group drew more pictures than the no award group, but the pictures drew by the expected award group were also of lower quality (refer to Table 2).


Not only do the results from the two studies imply that the effect of extrinsic rewards is short lived, it also provide evidences for effort justification and overjustification. These two ideas suggest that when we work hard, we tend to internally justify our hard work as intrinsic motivation, that we are doing it because we like it and we hold great interest in it. However, if we know beforehand that we are going to be rewarded, especially when the extrinsic reward is unrelated to the action, our hard work will be externally justified, that we are doing it just for the reward, not because we like it. In this case, this is shown by the lack of students continuing with the puzzle and the quality of drawing in the expected award group.

Hence, if you want to your child to succeed in their studies in the future, it is more important to motivate them to develop their interests rather than using rewards to improve their actual performance. The effect of incentives are short-lasting, they will only work if they are really what the child wants, and if they increase each time you reward them. However, if you develop their interests, they will naturally work hard and success will also follow.

References:

Greene, D. & Lepper, M. R. (1974). Effects of extrinsic rewards on children's subsequent intrinsic interest. Child Development, 45, 1141-1145

Lepper, M. R. & Greene, D. (1975). Turning play into work: effects of adult surveillance and extrinsic rewards on children's intrinsic motivation. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 31, 479-486

Looks Really Do Sell !!


Trying to fund-raise for a cause so dear to you but can't seem to catch a break? Working in a door to door sales company, but can't seem to any sign up? Can't make any money off your Youtube vlog channel because no one is subscribing? Can't seem to get any likes or shares on the products you're advertising on social media?

Here are 2 the reasons why:

1. You're not attractive enough (hate to break it to you).
2. You didn't get someone attractive to endorse your product for you.

The world loves attractive men and women, we love those faces carefully crafted by the gods- those strong jawlines, soft chins, high cheek bones, full lips, cute noses, bright beautiful eyes- it's evolutionary, we just can't help ourselves from automatically loving people who fit into these categories. They're the ones who are most likely to be popular, most likely to be hired (see Dipboye et al., 1977.), most likely to be successful in the Media & Entertainment Industry (see Hollywood).

The Holy Trinity Of Attractiveness. I find most Balmain pieces underwhelming  - blame the Kardashians -  but hell, Rihanna, Naomi & Iman make it look incredible!

But why does beauty help you sell yourself, and your product? 

It's quite a simple yet effective persuasion tactic called Physically Attractive - Admirer Altercast. As previously mentioned, we cannot help but immediately attend to people who are attractive. A physically attractive person in the words of Psychologist Anthony Pratkanis "occupies a prestige position in status hierarchy", thus we admire them, we want to be like them, we associate positive things with them. We want to identify with them! This makes us so much more gullible to their persuasive influence even at our own detriment - think Basic Instinct.

It's not that Colgate actually makes your teeth whiter- none of these brands actually work, just see your dentist- but it's because she's attractive. She makes Colgate look good with her pretty face and her pretty white smile, which she probably got from seeing a dentist!!!!

.

How are you sure looks really do sell?

Well, Ahearne et al (1999) investigated the effect of perceived pharmaceutical salesperson's attractiveness on their performance.  A sample of 339 physicians was surveyed to rate some pharmaceutical company sales representatives’ attractiveness as well as their perceptions of their different abilities.

They studied looked at the effects of the perceived salesperson's attractiveness on their perceived performance (ability to sell), their ability to communicate, how likeable they are, their expertise an trustworthiness.


In the table above their results showed that perceived salesperson attractiveness had a significant positive effect on their perceived ability to communicate, their perceived likeability, expertise and trustworthiness. The most significant effect was seen in performance (on the table as market share), with salesmen's market share increasing significantly as their score for attractiveness increased (see table below).


So there you have it! The physicians were more likely to attribute positive traits to salespeople on the basis of their attractiveness. So if you really want to be a successful salesman, or want to raise more funds for your cause, want more people to buy your products, be more attractive, or get someone who is more attractive to do the work for you!



P.S: Whilst this may seem unfair to the below average-looking lay person, it is the undeniable reality, if you can't afford the beauty products and plastic surgeries like the elites, you can at least catfish on social media.




Reference(s).
Ahearne, M., Gruen, T., & Jarvis, C. (1999). If looks could sell: Moderation and mediation of the attractiveness effect on salesperson performance. International Journal Of Research In Marketing, 16(4), 269-284. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/s0167-8116(99)00014-2

Pratkanis, A. (2007). The science of social influence. New York: Psychology Press.

Psychologists of the Caribbean - The Norm of Reciprocity

- starring Johnny Depp, Orlando Bloom and Oktay √úlker

You want or need someone to do you a favor, but you don't know how to achieve this? If that person is a close friend or family member you can most likely rely on altruism. But what if that person is just a stranger? If this is the case, it can be really hard to get someone to do you a favor. 

If you think pirates only search for treasures and drink rum you are mistaken. They can even use the norm of reciprocity so that other people do them a favor! Below an example is given.



William Turner wants to save Elizabeth Swann who is on the Black Pearl, but in order to do so he needs to get to the ship. Captain Jack Sparrow is able to bring Will to the Black Pearl. Now Will makes use of the norm of reciprocity: he promises Captain Sparrow to free him, who afterwards is obligated to return the favor and bring Will to the ship. As seen in this scene, after hearing that Will can free him, Captain Sparrow offers Will that he can bring him to the ship in return.

The norm of reciprocity is used everywhere; in movies and our daily lives. It is indeed a well known and researched phenomenon. The likelihood of someone returning a favor after doing them a favor is higher, even without a verbal agreement as in the video. But actually there is an interesting fact about it which isn't shown in the video, which is described below.

Burger, Sanchez, Imberi and Grande (2009) conducted an experiment to find out more about the norm of reciprocity. Their study supports the effect. In their study, participants were either given a bottle of water by a confederate or not. Later they were asked to fill out a questionnaire at home and bring it back a few days later. However, Burger et al. added another variable to the experiment: one group was told that the confederate would recieve the questionnaire personally and the other group that the confederate wouldn't be present.


As seen in this table people who recieved a favor were more likely to return the favor (favor: 17/60 vs. no favor: 3/30). These results can be explained by the norm of reciprocity. But interestingly people returned a favor even if the confederate wasn't present (anonymous: 12/60 vs. non-anonymous: 8/60). This shows that for those people the norm of reciprocity is an internalizied social norm.

To put it in a nutshell, this article supports the general idea of the norm of reciprocity, which can also be seen in the short video. Additionally it shows that returning a favor doesn't depend on the fact whether the initial favor-giver notices it or not. So, to get a stranger to do you a favor, you should grant him a favor first (this works especially if you need to get to the Black Pearl and grant other pirates their freedom)!


Burger, J. M., Sanchez, J., Imberi, J. E., & Grande, L. R. (2009). The norm of reciprocity as an internalized social norm: Returning favors even when no one finds out. Social Influence4(1), 11-17.

Sneaky Topshop

Like most people, I find the best way to shop now is staying in the comfort of my own home and spend my money online. For us spenders, when we see that they only have a few items left in stock in our size, we have to buy the item immediately. For example, when I saw this amazing swimsuit from Topshop, it only had 2 left in stock in my size. This was in a different coloured font and situated right next to the ‘add to bag’ button. My thought process included ‘if I don’t buy this now, it will probably sell out and I will never have it’. So obviously, this went straight into the online  basket.

This behaviour can be explained by Parker (2011) who published ‘When Shelf-based Scarcity Impacts Consumer Preferences’. Parker suggested that scarcer products infer that they are more popular and higher quality so are more desired. He conducted a study which showed that when a product was more scarce, participants were more likely to select them. Seventy undergraduates were asked to imagine they took a trip in a foreign country and that they decided to purchase items to take to a local party. Participants were given a simulation of shelfs with the products and in each category one was product was scarce. They found that participants were more likely to choose the product which was very scarce. 

So, by Topshop clearly showing me that there is only 2 products left in stock in my size, I am more likely to buy the product. 
References

Parker, J. R., & Lehmann, D. R. (2011). When shelf-based scarcity impacts consumer preferences. Journal of Retailing, 87(2), 142-155.

Buy now or forever hold your peace!

Booking your holiday can be stressful, especially when you want to make sure that you are getting a good quality hotel as well as value for your money. So you may think that looking on comparison websites are a quick and easy way to compare potential hotels.


However, looking will quickly turn into booking when the website is swarming with limited offers for ‘Today only!’ Not to mention constant updates about how many other people are looking at the same hotel that you’re interested in, which only has a few rooms left. When rooms seem to be selling by the second, customers can easily be influenced into booking a hotel because it only has 3 bedrooms left. Not to mention the fact that if you book now you can save £50, whilst also experiencing the satisfaction of beating 4 strangers to the finish line.



Travel comparison websites, such as booking.com, promote the idea that ‘if everyone’s buying it, it must be good’, by making the number of rooms they have seems scarce. They employ strategies focusing on limited availability due to high demand (e.g. ‘only 3 rooms left’) and limited supply (e.g. whilst stocks last).

Gierl and Huettl (2010) investigated the effects of scarcity due to demand (e.g. nearly sold out) versus scarcity due to supply (i.e. Limited edition). They found that the two forms had different effects depending on what the customer wanted from the product. If it was desired to increase a person’s social status or display their uniqueness, then it was more likely that scarcity due to supply was more attractive to them.

In contrast if the product is low in stock due to high demand, it is more attractive to consumers as this infers that everyone is purchasing it because of its high quality. The graph below displays the effectiveness of this technique since the attractiveness of a product increases along with its scarcity (Gierl & Huettl, 2010). Travel companies maximise on this method by stating that they have a limited number of rooms left, causing the hotel to appear more attractive to you and as a result you are more likely to book it.



Not only does scarcity indicate high quality, it also leads you to believe that the product must be valuable. Mittone and Savadori (2009) had participants choose between scarce and abundant items, and then asked at what price they would be willing to sell the scarce item (willingness to accept, WTA). They found that participants who chose the scarce product would return it for a higher price than those who chose a product that was in abundance. This shows that more value had been placed on the product due to the fact it was scarce.

Alongside this, those who chose the scarce product had a selling price (WTA) equal to that of the abundant product, even though it had been previously marked at a lower market price. The WTA scores on the figure below show that the scarce object is considered just as valuable as the abundant one, even though it is actually worth less. This indicates that when an item is deemed scarce the perceived value of it increases. Comparison websites can take advantage of this simply by stating that there are fewer rooms' available, leading consumers to believe that it must be of higher value. 


This should be considered a warning to all shoppers who may be fooled into thinking that Hotel Room A is of higher value than Room B, simply because it only has 2 rooms left. 




Gierl, H., & Huettl, V. (2010). Are scarce products always more attractive? The interaction of different types of scarcity signals with products' suitability for conspicuous consumption. International Journal of Research in Marketing, 27(3), 225-235.

Mittone, L., & Savadori, L. (2009). The scarcity bias. Applied Psychology,58(3), 453-468.




The Power of a Compliment


I have recently become aware of an important aspect of human nature: we are phenomenal suckers for flattery.

This fact became clear to me a couple of weeks ago when I was shopping with my mother. She was trying on a dress which she was fairly indifferent about, when a sales assistant walked over. We were fully aware that the sales assistant was about to try and persuade us to buy the dress, therefore we were preparing ourselves to be bombarded with persuasive sales techniques:

 “You look absolutely lovely, what’s the occasion?”
“That colour really suits you and this jewellery would look amazing with the outfit too!”

Were these simple sales techniques really an effective was to sell a dress? The answer in this instance was yes; she ended up buying it! Even when we were both fully aware that the sales assistant was using compliments in order to sell the dress, it was an incredibly powerful tool.

People are more likely to be persuaded to say ‘yes’ when you make them feel good about themselves. They will do almost anything for you when you provide them with a rush of self-esteem that comes with receiving a compliment. In the modern world, people commonly influence our behaviour by giving us compliments; most things we choose to buy are a produce of social influence. Although there may be limits to our gullibility, especially when we are aware that the flatterer is trying to gain something from us, we tend to believe praise and to like those who provide us with it.

This simple, yet powerful persuasive technique is demonstrated in an experiment conducted by Drachman, deCarufel and Insko (1978). This study investigates the effect of different levels of evaluation (positive, negative or mixed) on the liking of an evaluator. When a group of men from North Carolina received comments about themselves from an evaluator, they found that attraction of the evaluator increased with more positive evaluations; the evaluator who provided the most praise was liked the most.

The researchers also investigated the effect of accuracy of the comment on evaluation of the flatterer. They found that praise did not have to be accurate to work; positive comments produced just as much liking for the flatterer when they were untrue as when they were true. This shows that flattery seems to have an influence on behaviour, even when it is not sincere.

This tendency also held true when the men were fully aware that the flatterer stood to gain from their liking him. This is the same phenomenon that I observed when my mother bought the dress, despite knowing the sales assistant was possibly complimenting her in order to be liked so that she would make a sale.


This study demonstrates the immense power that praise can have on our behaviour. Cialdini (2009) argued that humans have an automatically positive reaction to compliments and that we will fall victim to those who use flattery, even when used in an obvious attempt to win our favour or when the compliments are inaccurate.

Humans have a psychological need to be respected and accepted. We crave affection and praise in order to satisfy our need to belong, feel admired, and to fulfil our need for personal worth. The change in behaviour that is evident in situations where someone has received a compliment can be explained by the fact that people act and behave in a certain way in order to validate compliments. Compliments have a powerful influence on behaviour, as they make the recipient feel needed and valued. This individual will now feel that they have a reputation to live up to and will want to behave in certain ways in order to validate the compliments. Praise can have a powerful effect on us by inducing a significant boost in self-esteem, as seen in the example previously mentioned. Presenting a compliment (it doesn’t even have to be sincere or accurate) can build up a person’s self-esteem, resulting in them being more inclined to like you, and can result in behaviour change. This proves that giving compliments in order to sell things to people is neither a costly nor a foolish thing to do.  




References:

Cialdini, R. B. (2009). Influence: Science and practice. Boston, MA: Pearson Education.

Drachman, D., DeCarufel, A., & Insko, C. A. (1978). The extra credit effect in interpersonal attraction. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 14, 458-465.




Dear (Some) Vegans, Try This Instead

How do you respond when you hear the word 'vegan'?

a) repress a shudder
b) say 'oh, I could never do that'
c) switch off your attention
d) all of the above

Most of society (may or may not include me from the past) seem to envisage all vegans as preachy, lettuce-obsessed individuals who get a kick out of shaming/guilt-tripping people who eat meat or other animal products.

But gradually, as more and more people have endorsed it (including people publicly admired, such as Ellen DeGeneres, Jared Leto, Serena Williams and Ellie Goulding to name a few), it does seem to have prompted a slight shift in attitude and begun to chip away at the undeniable stigma surrounding veganism.

For instance, 'Veganuary' (the non-profit organisation encouraging people to take the month-long pledge to live on a vegan diet for the whole of January) have reported rising figures of public participation from 2014-2015 (approximately from 4,000-12,800 people), with the projected figure of around 50,000 people having taken part this January, 2016 (concrete figures have not yet been released).



'Veganuary' as a campaign has approached the idea of veganism from a few different angles, discussing health, environmental and ethical issues, with constant references to statistics, studies and famous people who advocate it. The use of statistics and celebrity advocates are persuasive tactics in themselves (Chaiken, 1980; McCracken, 1989), nevertheless there is one resounding tactic they have maintained across their website to get the message and relevant information of veganism across.

These are some screenshots from their section where they discuss the health benefits of a vegan diet:





As depicted, they list all the health problems which can be avoided if one becomes vegan. This persuasive technique can be seen as appealing to 'affect-based dissonance', related to negative feelings such as fear and discomfort (Keller & Block, 1999).

However, it is not as simple as all that. Keller & Block (1999) further explored how people's prior stances towards certain information would ultimately influence their behaviour. They conducted a study to investigate whether people's attitudes towards practising safe sex could be altered and split the participants into two groups based on 'prior intention', meaning if they self-reported beforehand an intention to or not to practice safe sex, they would be placed in the 'high prior intention' and 'low prior intention' conditions respectively.

The participants were then further assigned to either a 'low-fear' or 'high-fear' condition. The 'low-fear' condition involved receiving a brochure which listed some of the milder health problems of not practising safe sex, such as pelvic inflammatory disease, soreness and oral herpes, whilst the 'high-fear' condition mentioned problems seen as far more severe, such as HIV (the AIDS virus), syphilis, AIDS related cancers and even death.

This table (Table 2) illustrates the effect of the 'fear' condition and 'prior intention' on dissonance and overall persuasiveness.





















As shown in the first column, affect-based dissonance (level of negative emotion experienced) resulting from reading the brochure, was higher among low-prior intention participants when they received the high-fear brochure. 

However, due to this, higher message denial was consequently experienced, which meant overall, lower persuasion and lower intentions to take on the beneficial information of safe sex.

These findings can be applied to the example of veganism and the way it is perceived in society. The stigma of vegans (e.g. preachy, self-righteous) can be seen as stemming from the extremist advocates of the lifestyle, one of the most notable people with a large following online being Leanne Ratcliffe, otherwise known as 'Freelee The Banana Girl' - with over 136,000,000 views across all of her media content, she is best known for feeding into this stereotype. Her videos include shaming all lifestyles that are not vegan, branding some people's choices of diet as "eating disorders" and using graphic, explicit imagery of the cruelty present in the agriculture industry. 

These are a few sample titles of her video blogs online:



If we relate this to the study above (Keller & Block, 1999), 'Freelee The Banana Girl' is receiving such a negative response online as her method or tactic for spreading information is similar to that of an extreme, 'high-fear' technique, causing much affective dissonance and negativity. Vegan lifestyles in today's society are still seen as nowhere near to meat-eating lifestyles, therefore it is reasonable to suggest that the majority of people will not approach veganism with 'high prior intentions' (I certainly didn't). Ultimately, her message-spreading is not very persuasive, generating more anger from people than a willingness to listen, evidenced by the amount of dislikes per video and the fact that it's as if World War 3 is happening in all of her comment sections.

This is a stark contrast with how 'Veganuary' have gone about the subject; there is no shaming, only positive but firm messages of how veganism can benefit you, with objective evidence to back their claims. The discovery that 'lower fear' is more effective with 'low prior intentions' (Keller & Block, 1999) seems to be working in their favour, with their participation figures on the rise every year.


References:

Chaiken, S., (1980). Heuristic versus Systematic Information Processing and the Use of Source versus Message Cues in Persuasion. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 39, 752-766.

Health Benefits, A Happier and Healthier Life. (2016) Retrieved from http://www.veganuary.com/why/health-benefits/

Keller, P.A. and Block, L.G., (1999). The effect of affect-based dissonance versus cognition-based dissonance on motivated reasoning and health-related persuasion. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied, 5(3), pp. 302-313.

McCracken, G. (1989). Who is the Celebrity Endorser? Cultural Foundations of the Endorsement Process. Journal of consumer research, 16, 310-321.