Behaviour Change

PROPAGANDA FOR CHANGE is a project created by the students of Behaviour Change (ps359) and Professor Thomas Hills @thomhills 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

Trick yourself into having a lie-in

Nearly every day of the week, I manage to use a persuasion technique to get myself out of bed. Many of us set multiple alarms as we want to get up at the latest time possible which won’t make us late. If I want to get up at 8am for example, I will set two alarms; one at 7:30am and another at 7:40am. When I eventually drag myself out of bed at 8, it’s made that bit easier as I consider myself to have had an extra 30 minutes in bed as my first alarm was at 7:30. This isn’t really the case as 8am is the time I actually wanted to get up, so there is no lie-in, but I’ve managed to convince my brain that that’s a positive result.

It could be argued that in this situation I am using the persuasion technique of decoys. This is when an option(s) which are seen as inferior are included in a choice set to make other option(s) appear more superior in comparison. By using decoys, waking up at 8am is seen as the more superior choice to 7:30 or 7:40 so of course I always select the latest option.

Huber, Payne and Puto (1982) looked into the decoy effect. They had two groups; the first were given two choices (target and competitor) and had to select a preference. The second were given three choices; the same two as the first group plus a decoy (which was more similar to the target) from which to select. From the results in Table 1, it was found that the target item became more popular (58% selection) than its competitor when a decoy was presented alongside than when just the two items were presented alone (52% selection).

Without Decoy
With Decoy
Table 1 – Effect of selections of target and competitor when decoy present or absent

The presence of the decoy increases the superiority of the target. In my case 8am becomes a superior choice when placed among two earlier times that are unattractive to me, making 8am the obvious choice for me to get up.  

If you want to wake up on time, trick yourself into a false lie-in. You’ll be too tired to even realise…

Huber, J., Payne, J. W., & Puto, C. (1982). Adding asymmetrically dominated alternatives: Violations of regularity and the similarity hypothesis. Journal of Consumer Research, 9, 90-98.

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