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, February 4, 2016

LAST CHANCE TO BUY - My Downfall at the Christmas Sales

After the Christmas period, it would make sense to attempt to avoid the sales: you have already been showered in gifts (if you’re lucky enough) and have spent all of your own money returning the favour to your loved ones.  In short, you’re broke and you don’t NEED anything else, right? Wrong.

I myself, fell into the trap of the post-Christmas sales this year and felt trapped between my lust for yet more material possessions that I simply didn’t need at reduced prices and my bank balance screaming for me to stop driving myself further and further into my overdraft.  And I’m not alone, thousands flock to events such as Black Friday when a limited number of items are discounted heavily – some even go as far as fighting one another for the items. But why? Common sense dictates that we, as intelligent human beings should be able to reason our way out of unnecessary sales purchases, but marketing schemes plot against us and exploit our every psychological weakness, and boy are they exploited.
Advertisements like those above are specifically designed to play on the principles of scarcity – whereby humans place higher value on, and in many ways desire more the items that appear to be rare.  This is embedded in principles such as social proof, by which people attribute low stock or being sold out as a sign that the product must be good – after all, everyone else is buying it.
It may be surprising to hear that adults behave very much like toddlers in so much as when we are told that we cannot have something, it simply makes us want it more.  In social psychology this involves social proof, scarcity, commitment and consistency.  These are key principles of Robert Cialdini’s Six Principles of Influence (2007) and have been proven to have extremely strong effects as repeatedly demonstrated in research. 
 There are two types of scarcity encountered by potential buyers, such as myself: the first, is quantitative scarcity whereby products are sold in a limited quality and thus by not buying them when they are available, you run the risk of them being sold out.  The other is time dependent scarcity whereby an item or deal is only available for a brief period of time and by not purchasing within this time frame, either the product will no longer be available or the deal will have expired and the item will be full price again - I, of course like many fell victim to both during my online browse.

The above graph is taken from Verhallen and Robben (1994) showing availability (both accidental and popularity) and the effects on sales of books - a clear illustration of what's at play in these online shopping experiments, in that when a product is scarce it affects our choices to purchase it. 

Both of these devices are at play in the case of online shopping, as when browsing websites, users are bombarded with adverts, pop-ups and emails about limited stock/time deals and research has shown that when there are fewer items remaining, each item is rated as more attractive by participants.  In the case of Worchel, Lee and Adewole (1975) these limited items were cookies in a jar (as shown above), and unfortunately in my case they were clothes, shoes and makeup that I did not want, need or ask for yet the powers of social persuasion tricked me into thinking I did.

Cialdini, R. B. (2007). Influence: The psychology of persuasion. S.l.: Collins.

Verhallen, T. M., & Robben, H. S. (1994). Scarcity and preference: An experiment on unavailability and product evaluation. Journal of economic psychology, 15(2), 315-331.

Worchel, S., Lee, J., & Adewole, A. (1975). Effects of supply and demand on ratings of object value. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 3, 383-389.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.