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.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Come on, it's free!

Friday 6th March 2015 marked 58 years of Ghanaian Independence, and being of Ghanaian descent I attended a club night in Coventry to celebrate. After the event had finished I was speaking to one of the promoters/ organisers who is also a friend of mine. We were talking about an upcoming event happening this Friday. Omarion a US RnB singer will be coming to Coventry and he was asking me if I would be attending; he was organising this event too. I told him that I wouldn't be going as I didn't know anyone else that was.  I could tell from his face he didn't understand why I wasn't going. He then said, ‘Oh come on, I’ll sell you the ticket at a reduced price’. I knew the event would be really good and I do like Omarion but I replied ‘No, I’m ok thanks.' He then said, ‘I’ll give you a free ticket!’ At this point I was very intrigued. I knew the ticket price would be quite high as it was so close to the day of the event, so if he gave me a free ticket that would be brilliant, it was week 9 and money was low.  After pondering about this potential freebie for a while, I had to kindly decline the offer, none of my close friends were going, did I really want to be dancing alone, no. 


 Ariely (2008) carried out an experiment were he investigated the effect of the word free. In this experiment students were offered a Lindt chocolate truffle for 15 cents (usually costing around 50 cents) and a Hershey’s Kiss for 1 cent. 

Figure 1: Graph showing percentage of participants choosing the truffles/ kisses 

As is shown in Figure 1, 73% of participants chose the Lindt truffle and 27% chose the Hershey's Kiss. The price of both chocolates were then dropped by just 1 cent, so the Truffle was 14 cents and the Kiss was free. 

Figure 2: Graph showing percentage of participants choosing truffles/kisses after price drop

They found demand had reversed and the percentage of participants opting for the Hershey's Kiss rose to 69% and those opting for the Lindt Truffle fell to 31% as is shown in Figure 2. 

So the word free is extremely effective and can even result in us passing up good quality deals for freebies. In my case the offer of the free ticket didn't really work, the fact that I would be dancing alone took priority but, in many other cases we often feel that we cannot pass up something free, regardless of whether we want it or not.






Ariely, D. (2008) Predictably Irrational: The hidden forces that shape our decisions. United States: Harper Collins. 


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