Beating the 'What-the-hell' effect

Check out this great post by PSYBLOG on the 'What-the-hell' effect.

To illustrate the 'What-the-hell' effect, Polivy et al., 2010 conducted a study among two samples: 1 group of dieters and 1 group of non-dieters. They served up 1 slice of pizza for each participant and then asked them to rate some cookies. To make things interesting, they served the same amount of pizza to everyone, but cut some slices differently to make them look bigger in order to trick some people into thinking they were eating more.

What they found was those dieting who got served the larger looking slices actually ended up eating 50% more cookies than the non-dieters! (remember they were only ask to rate the cookies). By simply making dieters believe they had eaten too much, they were able to set in motion the 'what-the-hell' effect, i.e. 'what-the-hell' I've blown my diet, I might as well stuff my face with some of these yummy cookies

Unfortunately self control is a limited resource and once it's gone (or taken away in the case of this experiment), it appears we are programed to think 'what-the-hell' and go all out to alleviate the pressure caused by our suppressed urges

There is one obvious implication for marketers, that is to take advantage of this fundamental human weakness...Mc Donalds has been doing it for decades "Would you like fries with that" or "Would you like to upsize for an extra $1?"

However, the less obvious implication is that marketers can use this principle to help customers reach their goals. PSYBLOG suggests that acquisitional goals may in fact reduce the 'what-the-hell' effect. For example, Alcoholics Anonymous use the acquisitional goal of acquiring days, weeks, months, years etc sober instead of the inhibitional goal to stop drinking altogether which is likely to cause pressure and self-control to eventually run out supply. So instead of focussing on controlling your urges (inhibitional goals), focus on gaining something (aquisitional goals) which is less taxing on your self control

With apps for everything these days... there's lots of potential ideas for companies to work with customers to achieve happier, healthier and wealthier lives