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.

Friday, February 27, 2015

iTunes or iScam

On a day-to-day basis we see offers in the supermarket which the majority of the time persuade us to purchase more of a specific product than we actually need or would have otherwise. They do this through '3 for 2' and 'Buy 5, get 1 free,' we wind up believing we are getting a deal, even though we are probably spending more money than we originally would have, therefore not saving any money. 

Similarly, on iTunes this kind of persuasive technique is seen when we purchase music. The majority of singles on iTunes are priced at £0.99. Using Taylor Swift's '1989' album as an example: to buy the entire album it is £11.99 for 16 tracks. This works out as approximately £0.75 (11.99/16) per track. So in actual fact you are paying more than you need to buying individual tracks. Whilst you may only like 1 or 2 songs, then paying £0.99 for a track may seem cheaper, however the better deal is actually to buy the entire album, which you would not initially realise.  

An additional example: Which? carried out a survey in December 2013 exploring whether the consumer is actually saving money when buying products when they are on special offer. Results showed that after analysing 700,000 items at the big 5, were in fact more expensive than products not on special offer.

The Foot-in-the-door (FITD) technique is an explanation for how this compliance method can be persuasive. The product is seemingly cheaper at the start so you think you're getting a better deal and saving when actually, if you buy the most expensive product initially you are getting more value for money. FITD involves getting someone to agree to a reasonable commitment initially, to later request a larger commitment. As a species we like to be consistent, and if we have pleased someone by complying to their request, we fear we will look inconsistent and hypocritical if we don't then follow through with a slightly larger request. This is largely down to the feeling of obligation to continue with the desired action. 

This technique was researched by Schwarzwald, Bizman and Raz (1983). They explored the effectiveness of this technique in fundraising. In their study, the participants were split into groups. The first group were first asked to sign a petition before being asked to make a donation to a specific organisation (FITD condition). The second group (control condition) were not asked to sign a petition prior to making a donation. The request to sign a petition was made two weeks prior to the request to make a donation.       


Figure 1. A bar chart to show the % of participants who made a donation.

The figure above shows the findings that a significantly larger % of participants were part of the FITD condition, that made a donation. 64% of participants in the FITD condition made a donation, whereas nearly half (36%) chose to make a donation after not signing a petition. They found that making the small request initially resulted in more money donated compared with the control group. The petition is an example of a public commitment, which could be a reason they feel more inclined to make a donation. They don't want to appear inconsistent with their previous actions, therefore follow through. 

In conclusion, iTunes use the FITD technique to make a more expensive option seem more appealing when compared to its alternatives, i.e. paying £11.99 for an album, compared to only paying £0.99 for a single. You believe you are only complying with a small request when actually it is a larger one however this technique blinds you from this reality. This is why it is persuasive and effective as willingness is high when you believe you are in control.

Schwarzwald, Joseph; Bizman, Aharon; Raz, Moshe. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, Vol 9(3), Sep 1983, 443-450.

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