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, April 26, 2018

Savvy Saver Challenge

Our project focused on getting more young people, predominately in the Millennial generation (Generation Y) to adopt a saving mind-set through a £1 a day challenge for four weeks. This was conducted to make Millennials feel more positive about saving money, and highlight that saving need not mean compromising on all aspects of life.

First, who exactly are Millennials (Generation Y)?
Born between 1980 and the late 1990s, they are the generation that grew up during the 2007 recession, but also grew up with technology. The cut-off point is somewhat debated however, with the Oxford English Dictionary (2018) providing a fairly broad definition of Millennials as “Denoting people reaching adulthood in the early 21st century”.
It is the biggest cohort in US history with 92 million Millennials compared to 61 million Gen X and 77 million Baby Boomers (US Census Bureau, 2015), and in 2016 Millennials accounted for about 14% of the UK’s population (Brown et al., 2017).
In general, Millennials tend to have a bad reputation and are often labelled as ‘entitled’ and the ‘me, me, me generation’. However, Millennials are more likely to spend their money on sustainability and ethically sourced goods (Nielson, 2015) than previous generations.

So, are Millennials really bad savers then?
Yes, and no is the answer. Millennials are more conscious than previous generations about personal health, with more money spent on fitness and healthier foods. For example, sales in pre-packaged baby foods have declined by 14% from 2012 to 2015, with more parents opting for homemade alternatives (Mintel, 2016). Additionally, a survey on over 2000 students revealed that on average they spent £87 more per month on fitness, such as gym memberships and exercise classes, than students that graduated 1997-2017 (SPCE, 2017).
Research by Gallup (Fleming, 2017) revealed that in comparison to all other generations, Millennials go online to compare prices to find the best deals 16% more, are 14% more likely to purchase used goods, and just as likely to purchase generic/store-brand goods. However, Millennials reported 13% more impulse purchases, went shopping for fun 13% more and were 5% less likely to use coupons in comparison to other generations.
Thus, millennial spending habits are not clear cut, with good saving habits formed, but also evidence of maladaptive spending habits also.

So why target Millennials then?
As a generation, Millennials are the first generation predicted to be worse off than their parent’s generation (Corlett, 2017). This is in part due to the growing gap between income and house prices i.e. the housing crisis, increasing student loan debt, and increasing costs of living in general.
In 1996, 55% of households were led by someone 25-29 years old, and 68% of 30-34 year olds were owner occupiers. In comparison, in 2017 59% of Millennial-led households were renting (Brown et al., 2017).
The income to housing price gap is rising also (as depicted by Graph 1). On average, in 2016 those who work could be expected to spend around 7.6 times their yearly income on purchasing a home within England and Wales, this is up from an average of 3.6 times ones yearly income in 1997 (Office for National Statistics, 2017).

Aims of our project
Despite financial difficulty ahead, we wanted to emphasise to Millennials that it may not be fair, but saving regularly from an earlier age, even in small amounts is better than not saving at all. Research has shown that people create habits early towards money. For example if businesses pay tax on time in their first year, they will be highly likely to continue, as they have set up the necessary habits such as good record keeping (Halpern, 2016). Interventions for getting businesses to pay tax on time become less successful with each year of the business. Therefore, students may not think about saving money now as they have their student loan. This may create a dangerous ‘non-saver’ mind-set in the future. Thus, we are aiming to create a pro-saver mind set from an earlier age which hopefully will be adopted later in their lives also. Another focus is to make Millennials aware that saving need not impinge on life satisfaction, an important concept for this generation. Research has shown that more than any other generation Millennials are more likely to spend on experiences, rather than material possessions, and put heavy weight on life satisfaction also (SPCE, 2017).  

We chose the name ‘Savvy Saver Challenge’ for our Facebook Page, and campaign in general. We actively chose to include the concept of ‘saver’ rather than ‘savings’. Research by Bryan, Monin and Adams (2012) found that subtle linguistic differences caused participants to change their behaviour. Participants were less likely to cheat if presented with language that highlighted the implications of cheating for the participant’s identity i.e. ‘Please don’t be a cheater’ compared to when language focused on the action instead i.e. ‘Please don’t cheat’. Other research by Miller, Brickman, Bolen (1975) found that attributing behaviour to oneself influences people to maintain attitude-congruent behaviour (recycling). In this particular study, school classes were put into different recycling conditions: Control, Attribution and Persuasion. In the persuasion group the class were predominately told about throwing away rubbish and had a ‘Don’t be a litterbug’ sign in the classroom. In the attribution group, the class had a sign saying ‘We are Anderson’s Litter-Conscious Class’ and they were praised for not littering etc. Modification of behaviour was measured by seeing whether an assignment was thrown away after it was read, this was compared to pre-test percentages. Those in the attribution group were more likely to throw their rubbish away immediately following the study, as well as two weeks post-study, compared to both the persuasion and control groups. We want people to attribute themselves with the positive behaviour of saving and therefore framed the challenge using ‘Saver’ to emphasise the implication of saving for their identity rather than focusing on the action of ‘saving’.

Current and Future Selves
Within the project, we emphasised that saving need not be as much of a chore and saving little amounts is better than not saving anything at all. The poster exemplifies this through 3 situations. The first depicts someone who currently spends all their money (a ‘spendaholic’), and leaves their ‘future self’ in a bad position, with no savings whatsoever.
The second scenario depicts someone who is currently frugal, but unhappy and their ‘future self’ is ultimately financially better off, but they have memories of unhappy times during their frugal saving stage.
From research we know that Millennials like to spend more money on socialising and creating memories (SPCE, 2017), and would therefore not enjoy the concept of being too frugal in the present just to have a future financial benefit. Our stick people were designed to make future selves and the benefits of saving more salient. A large barrier to saving-behaviour is temporal discounting, which is “the tendency to discount the value of future gains” (Joshi & Fast, 2015, pp. 432). People will often choose to receive a smaller reward immediately than a larger reward in the future. Joshi and Fast (2015) found that temporal discounting is partly caused by people feeling disconnected from their future selves. Additionally, Ersner-Hershfield, Garton, Ballard, Samanez-Larkin, and Knutson (2009) found that regardless of age, the amount of assets one has correlates positively with the amount one feels similar to future self. In a lab, participants who were shown what they may look like when they’re old, allocated more money into a hypothetical savings account (Hershfield et al., 2011). Also, Hershfield (2011) suggests that one can improve future self-continuity by manipulating future-self vividness, similarity and positivity.
Thus, we present a more ideal scenario involving our ‘Savvy Saver Challenge’. This scenario shows a happy ‘current self’ saving little amounts, but not being too frugal that they are missing out in the present. One’s ‘future self’ is shown to also be happy as they are financially better off for saving, but also happy when looking back at the fact they didn’t have to ‘starve to save’. Our stick people increase future-self vividness by pairing a future and current self, and positivity by showing that with the ‘Savvy Saver Challenge’, both their selves can be happy.

Decision Tree – Interaction & Tailoring
 Our decision tree aims to increase participation in the challenge by using interaction and tailoring. In a meta-analysis of health interventions, interactivity and tailoring were factors that were successful in increasing positive attitudes towards the intervention and encouraging behaviour change (Fjeldsoe, Marshall, & Miller, 2009). Tailoring is a more individualised version of targeting (Kreuter and Wray, 2003). Targeting aims information at one demographic: we targeted students at Warwick using millennial colloquialism. Tailoring involves specifying information to a person’s unique traits; our trees differentiate between students that use cash or card, and students that have the motivation to buy a piggy bank. Tailoring increases the personal relevance of information to the viewer, which increases their engagement with the material (Noar, Benac, & Harris, 2007).
Interactivity is the ability of the viewer to change their outcome (Steinemann, 2015). It is one of the fundamental templates of advertising, which Goldenberg, Mazursky and Solomon (1999) have found increases the rating of adverts. Steinemann (2015) have found that information presented in an interactive way (controlling the speed of communication) increases hypothetical donations. Therefore we think that interactive decision trees, where the viewer finds their own outcome should be more interesting for our students.

Implementation Intentions
The challenge itself is based on Gollwitzer’s (1999) implementation intentions. Our students have a goal intention: save £1 every day; but their implementation intention will specify when, where and how the goal will be fulfilled e.g. when I hang my coat up I will put £1 into the piggy bank next to it. We provided people with a chart to keep track of whether they had saved each day.

We encouraged them to put their savings pot (and provided the internet savers with a logo to print out) in a spot that fitted into their routine (i.e. by their alarm clock so they would save every time they set the clock). We recommended that they specify a time and place to save each day, and use the item to remind them to fit it into their routine.
We also sent out a Facebook reminder each day at a varied interval. We used a varied interval schedule as our savers were likely saving at different times of the day. Gollwitzer (1999) reports that a single implementation intention can last up to 3 weeks, but we wanted to keep their intention fresh in their mind. When participants in Seehausen, Bayer and Gollwitzer’s study (as cited by Gollwitzer, 1999) were told that they didn’t need to complete their goal, the effect of the implementation intention disappeared in 48 hours. As our savers weren’t saving for anything in particular, and were told they did not have to save on the weekend, there was a danger that they may care less about achieving the challenge as time goes on, so the reminders were also to strengthen the concept of the goal. 

To measure how many people the challenged reached, we set up a Facebook group page which people could like and access more information regarding the challenge. Overall, 23 individuals liked our page, thus committing to the challenge publically. According to Cialdini and Trost (1998) people have a strong need to enhance their self-concepts by behaving consistently with their actions, and public commitments increase compliance more than private commitments.

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By Nathalie Pollack & Becky Smith 

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