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 6, 2014

Only YOU can read this blog!

My boy William James once said;

“He who refuses to embrace a unique opportunity loses the prize as surely as if he had failed.”

What he meant by that is sometimes you don’t get a second chance and to not seize the opportunity presented to you is just as much a failure as to follow the opportunity through and fail; you might as well do it.

Scarcity scares some people. That’s why they share so many letters. Sometimes the fear of losing out on something is force enough to get people to comply. It will be a familiar feeling to most that when we are told something is running out of supply or available for just a short amount of time then the object in question becomes more desirable.

Burger and Caldwell (2011) believe they have carved out a third type of scarcity that increases compliance levels; unique opportunities. They use the example that if it is possible to buy theatre tickets at a cheaper price but that this deal is only available to you then you are more likely to buy them (assuming you wanted to see your friend’s three hour interpretive dance rendition of King Lear in the first place). This is separate from either supply or time scarcity as there could be plenty of tickets still available and bountiful time within which to buy them (No one wants to see a friend’s three hour interpretive dance rendition of King Lear). The scarcity principle comes into play as only you are able to seize the deal. Another example to clarify; salespeople may inform you that “this deal is not available to the public” which makes it more desirable as you wish to be part of an exclusive group.

Burger and Caldwell tested this hypothesis by offering students the opportunity to take part in a research project with participation resulting in the chance to win a valuable prize. Well… a $25 gift card for a bookstore but roll with it. Participants were randomly allocated to one of three conditions. The first was the ‘unique opportunity’ condition. Participants were asked questions that would appear to differentiate them radically from others and as such, well wouldn’t you know, they were exactly what the research project was looking for! (i.e. the researchers just said it was amazingly fortunate to have found that specific participant regardless of their answer). The participant then felt they were in a unique position to take part in the project. The second condition was the ‘common opportunity’ condition; these participants were asked questions that made it clear they were not an amazing find. It was obvious to them that others would be in the same position as them. A final control condition were asked no questions and so it was clear that everyone could participate in the project, that is, there was no ‘opportunity’ to be seized.

Figure 1. Table to show compliance levels of different opportunity conditions.

This incredibly elaborate table shows us the results of the experiment. If participants complied fully, that is, they said they would show up for the project and then did show up, they would receive a mark of 2. If participants said they would not show up and then did not show up (who wouldn’t do that?) then they received a score of 0. The table displays the mean compliance level for each condition. There was a significant difference between the unique opportunity condition and the other two conditions. This means that participants were more likely to comply when presented with a unique opportunity than when proposed with an opportunity that was more widely available.

Main Article
Burger, J. M., & Caldwell, D. F. (2011). When opportunity knocks: The effect of a perceived unique opportunity on compliance. Group Processes & Intergroup Relations, 14(5), 671-680.

Worchel, S., Lee, J., & Adewole, A. (1975). Effects of supply and demand on ratings of object value. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 32, 906–914.

James Ulke

1 comment:

  1. I like it. It was risky to not analyse an advert but the tone and the research presented are very good.


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