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

The 'Online Disinhibition Effect'

The Psyblog makes an interested observation on the phenomenon called the 'Online Disinhibition Effect' the full article here.

"When communicating over the internet people don't feel the same pull towards social conformity as elsewhere. Online, people cast aside their inhibitions, worry less about the consequences of their actions and let it all hang out. Sometimes literally."

In a research context, there appears to be a great role for online methodologies to capture sensitive information that people would not be willing to disclose face-to-face. Something to think about when designing a study that requires people to disclose potentially embarrassing information.

Too much carrot can be a bad thing

I can't help but post up a blog almost every time after reading PsyBlog - the writers have a knack for picking great topics and making psychology theory sound interesting.

Their recent post talks about about what happens when you reward people that are already intrinsically motivated to perform a task. Studies have found that extrinsically motivating people with rewards (e.g. money, certificates, promotions etc) to perform a task, when they are already intrinsically motivated, actually reduces their productivity.

It seems counter intuitive right? That if you love doing something and someone comes along and say's "Hey, I'll pay you to do what you love", you start producing less or lower quality work.

The theory goes, that you can 'over justify' behaviour, i.e. we can get too caught up in the reward, start thinking too hard why we are performing a task and subsequently produce less/poorer quality

I think this quote sums it up nicely:

"We don't just work 'forwards' from our attitudes and preferences to our actions, we also work 'backwards', working out what our attitudes and preferences must be based on our current situation, feelings or actions"

I think this provides an interesting way to think about research, because we often talk to people about what they 'might do' or their 'intentions' or how they might react to a piece of communications in a group room...maybe we should be getting closer to what people actually do and work backwards from there?

The acceptance prohecy holds true!

The mystical-sounding 'acceptance prophecy' is simply this: when we think other people are going to like us, we behave more warmly towards them and consequently they like us more. When we think other people aren't going to like us, we behave more coldly and they don't like us as much.

The most amazing thing is that it's proven to be true! See the evidence here

The implication is of course:
  • If we believe customers/clients will love us, they probably will
  • If we believe respondents will warm to us and open up, they probably will

You are what you eat?

I wonder if what we eat defines who we are?

In a world where choice is so abundant, our editing of that choice and the resultant bodily intake of our choice surely tells so much about eat of us as individuals.

Does our food say much about our socioeconomic status, our life aspirations, our body image an level of self-esteem, our (intended, supported or desired) social image as surely we try different things to eat when we are 'out'

What do you think?