My CXL Institute Scholarship Journey; The Big List Part 3.
It’s another insightful week so far with CXL learning Digital Psychology and Persuasion. It’s been a sweet pain reading through the end of the big list. I, therefore, present to you the final part of the big list.
1. Ambiguity Aversion
“We prefer options that are certain”
People tend to select options for which the probability of a favourable outcome is known over an option for which the probability of a favourable outcome is unknown.
The ambiguity effect is relevant when a decision is affected by a lack of information, or “ambiguity”. The effect implies that we tend to select options for which the probability of a favourable outcome is highest. We’re simply reluctant to accept offers that are risky or uncertain.
- Over an initial range, women require no further compensation for the introduction of ambiguity whereas men do.
- Curiosity increases attention, thus is induced by mild doses of uncertainty.
2. Belonging & Conformity
“We prefer to behave in approval with our social groups”
Belongingness is our innate need to form and maintain strong, stable, interpersonal relationships. More than we’re often consciously aware of, we want to be part of a peer group, community, and society in general.
Once we feel like we belong to a group, we’ll conform to it and internalize the group’s values and norms. We typically conform to both injunctive norms of our groups; implied approved behaviour by the group, and to descriptive norms i.e common behaviour among group members. We may even behave adversely towards groups that we don’t want to be associated with.
Your brand, products, and/or services are social objects that inherently form and play a role within social groups. Therefore, belongingness and conformity have multiple strong, persuasive effects that are relevant to you and available for you to take full advantage of.
3. Paradox of choice
“We love either 3 or 5 options”
If we’re offered just one option, our choice is to either go for it or not. However, if we’re offered two choices, we automatically start choosing between these two, forgetting about the “or not” option existing silently in the background. Not choosing at all becomes a much less obvious option. Therefore, offering more than one option is usually more persuasive.
On the other hand, if we’re offered too many choices we tend not to choose at all. Too many choices are simply too difficult for our simple ratio.
That’s the paradox of choice.
“We prefer situations that we have control over”
Autonomy is the innate and universal desire to be causal agents of our own lives. Our perception of our autonomy influences our behaviour. A high level of perceived autonomy comes with feelings of certainty, reduced stress, and a high level of ‘intrinsic motivation’. This increases the likelihood of persistent behaviour. On the other hand, taking away our autonomy undermines our intrinsic motivation as we grow less interested in it.
Situations that give autonomy, as opposed to taking it away also have a similar link to motivation. Studies looking at choice find that increasing a participant’s options and choices increase their intrinsic motivation to said activities. Autonomy is considered one of the three basic, universal, innate, and psychological needs.
5. Visual cueing
“Our focus of attention is highly influenced by visual cues”
A visual cue is a signal that your brain extracts from what you see. It directs your attention and interest to something in your field of perception.
Now, only 1% of what you see enters through your eyes the rest is surprisingly accurately made up by your brain. You can only see well with your ‘fovea’; the area in the dead centre of your retina that’s the size of your thumbnail from an arm-length distance.
6. Endowment effect
“When we own goods, we value them higher than when we don’t”
How does our perceived value of items change depending on whether or not they’re ours? The effect that ownership has on perceived value (also known as ‘divestiture aversion’) shows that, when there are two identical products, we tend to value the one we own more.
In other words: We expect more money when selling a product than what we’re willing to pay when buying it.
“We are more likely to perform actions when we believe in our competence”
Self-efficacy is a person’s belief in his/her competence. According to Albert Bandura, who defined self-efficacy theory this personalized belief in our ability to succeed significantly affects our behaviour. The more competent we think we are (a high level of perceived self-efficacy), the greater our intrinsic motivation to act is.
There are at least three types of information that enhance our self-efficacy online:
- Our behaviour: When we’re successful at something, we become convinced that we will be successful at that same thing again.
- The behaviour of others: When we see others being successful with certain behaviour, we become convinced that we’ll also be capable of success with that behaviour.
- Rewarding feedback: Positive feedback contributes to the idea that we can achieve our goal by persisting.
8. Base rate neglect & Base rate fallacy
“We’re really bad with numbers”
We tend to base judgments on known specific numbers and percentages, ignoring necessary general statistical information. We often erroneously over-evaluate options with high numbers and percentages because of this, ignoring what subset or base these numbers come from…
9. Self-generation memory effect
“It’s easier to remember when we thought of it ourselves”
We remember information better when it’s generated by our minds than when we read or hear it from someone else. So, if you want your customer to remember something, a highly effective strategy is to have them generate the information themselves.
10. Perceptual incongruence
“We automatically pay attention to things that we did not expect”
Only 1% of what you see enters through your eyes. Your brain itself fills in the rest. Your brain does this by using prior visual information and established assumptions about the real world. 99% of what you see is ‘computed vision’, based on highly advanced algorithms, providing you with a surprisingly accurate visual image.
Perceptual incongruence occurs when the true visual information gathered via the eye doesn’t fit visual algorithms. When this happens, parts of the brain starts asking for more information because it doesn’t necessarily fit the algorithm.
Therefore, incongruence can have large effects in directing attention.
11. Status quo bias
“We tend to do nothing”
We have an irrational preference for the current state of affairs. Even when offered a new option or choice, we tend to stick to the default option.
The status quo bias is closely related to loss aversion and anchoring and adjustments since the default option is taken as a reference point. Any change from that baseline is perceived as a loss.
12. Availability heuristic
“If we can think of it, it must be important”
The more easily we can imagine an event, the more often or more likely we are to believe that this event will occur. So we have a tendency to judge the frequency of an event based on how easy it is to recall similar instances. And since memories are highly biased toward vivid, unusual, and emotionally charged examples, these will also influence how likely we are to consider events.
13. Commitment bias or labour-love effect
“We like something more when we’ve invested more effort into it”
More effort leads to more love but only when we can complete our actions. Customization is about more than individual preferences. It’s also about the amount of effort put into it. Customization effort increases liking.
This effect is also called the ‘Ikea-effect’ since Ikea lets it’s customers assemble their products.
14. Conceptual & Associative Priming
“Subtle cues subconsciously influence our thoughts, feelings and behaviour”
Our brain is fundamentally associative. Each time we have an experience, a huge neural associative representation is activated, for example, moon: reading this word sets off a series of associations like night, white, wolf, and illusion) This neural representation overlaps with related representations
15. Signalling Triggers, Reminders, & Alerts
“Even when highly motivated and able, we need a little reminder to make us act”
For us to act, we must;
1. Be sufficiently motivated,
2. Have the ability to perform the behaviour, and
3. Be triggered to perform the behaviour
These are based on B.J Fogg’s 2009 paper describing his Fogg Behavioral Model. Even when we have both the ability and the motivation to perform the desired behaviour, we need a “signal, reminder, alert, etc.” in other words, a trigger or nudge to act.
When motivation and ability are high, these reminders, signals, and alerts should not try to motivate us more or simplify the task that could even be annoying or condescending. Nor does it matter what form the trigger takes. From alarms, text messages, mobile push messages, or a call-out or pop-up on your website: they simply have to make us consciously aware of the option.
Successful triggers have three characteristics:
- We notice them,
- they bring the desired behaviour into our conscious awareness, and most importantly:
- the triggers happen at a moment when we are both motivated and able to perform the behaviour.
16. Sparking Triggers
“Often our motivation — and thereby actions — can be ignited rather easily”
When something is really easy to do, but our motivation isn’t very high, we tend to do nothing. However, ‘sparking triggers’ can rather easily boost our motivation, and thereby do make us act.
A ‘Sparking Trigger’ will make us act when:
- We notice it,
- it levers one or more relevant motivations, and most importantly,
- the trigger occurs at a moment when we’re both motivated and able to perform that behaviour.
17. Facilitating Triggers
“Often our ability to act — and thereby our acting — can be ignited rather easily”
When we have high motivation but lack ability, a ‘Facilitating Trigger’ can make us act. A facilitator not only triggers us but also makes the intended behaviour easier to do.
18. Repetition & Direct Priming
“Repetition helps us learn and react both quicker and easier”
The more we repeat something, the easier we process, remember, and act on it. Repetition simply smoothens our neural pathways. Repetition is also called ‘direct priming’ since each repetition ‘primes’ later experiences, leading to quicker and more intense reactions.
There are two direct priming effects. First, there is a very brief ‘lexical effect’: Each repetition activates its representation in our brain. Then that activation slowly ‘fades away’. This way, the experience remains ‘primed’ during the fading period, usually a few seconds, leading to quicker reactions when it is repeated.
The second effect is a long-term effect: The neural pathways in our brain are smoothened. This long-term effect works especially well for new ‘stimuli’ since highly familiar ones have already acquired a highway in our brain.
19. Peak-end rule
“The ending and the highest peak of an experience, determine how we remember it”
The peak-end rule is our tendency to judge an experience pleasant or unpleasant almost entirely on how it was at its peak and its ending. Other information, while not lost, is not used in the qualitative memory of the event i.e. extension neglect and duration neglect.
20. Domestic country bias
“We prefer domestic products over imported ones”
We are biased against foreign products and favour domestic ones. This domestic country bias is manifested in our product perceptions, as well as our buying behaviours.
One should be careful though: The domestic country bias doesn’t apply to all product categories. Moreover, this bias is more prevalent when our patriotic feelings are active (e.g. Independence Day in the US, Kingsday in The Netherlands, or when your national team wins the World Cup).
21. Country of Origin-effect
” We prefer products from stereotypical countries”
We tend to stereotype products based on their country of origin. This effect is specific to a product category and particularly relevant for brands with a weak country of origin e.g. countries that we stereotype as producing low-quality goods. Especially quality perception is vulnerable to the Country of Origin-effect and the effect is higher when we’re a novice in the market.
For example — Germany is typically known for building good cars, whereas the French produce the best wine, the Swiss the best watches, and the Japanese are known for good TV sets.
One way to counter our country of origin stereotyping bias is to encourage us to use our imaginations in positive ways.
“When others mimic our behaviour, we like them more”
Mimicry refers to the (often subconscious and automatic) imitation of other people’s behaviour. You yawn when I yawn. You smile when I smile. You shake your foot when I shake my foot. We mimic because mimicry has clear benefits for us and it helps us reach our goals. For example, when I mimic you smiling at me during a conversation, you’ll like me more. We will also be more likely to bond together and our conversation will be much more fluent.
There are two paths via which mimicry can be used to persuade us. First, we mimic the consuming behaviour of others (we eat more if we see others eating lots). Second, when our mannerisms are mimicked (such as smiling, shaking feet, fondling hair, etc.) we like the other more, making us more vulnerable to persuasion.
23. Position targeting
“We are easily influenced by which few products attributes we use to make a comparison”
When choosing between competing products, we find it difficult to compare complex aspects. We even find it hard to use more than a few simple comparison attributes. Therefore, we tend to base comparisons between competitors on just a couple of easily comparable criteria.
Being presented with a clear and specific set of attributes focuses our attention on these criteria, causing us to base our subsequent choices primarily on these criteria, ignoring other possibly relevant ones.
24. Hyperbolic Discounting
“We show a preference for rewards that arrive sooner rather than later”
When we consider a choice between two rewards, we tend to prefer the readily available one. We have a stronger preference for more immediate payoffs relative to later payoffs. In other words, the present is incredibly more powerful than the future. Imagine we can choose between one candy bar right now, or two in a month. We might prefer the readily available candy bar instead of waiting a month for an extra bar. However, if we have to wait 12 months to get one candy bar, and 13 months to get two bars, we switch our preference and tend to prefer waiting the extra month.
This effect is explained by hyperbolic discounting models: The longer we have to wait, the more we discount the value of rewards. This discounting is initially strong but then levels off as the wait becomes longer.
Because of this hyperbolic discounting effect, we can switch our preference for ‘waiting for an extra reward’, depending on how far into the future the waiting starts.
There are two types of hyperbolic discounting models: ‘sophisticated’ and ‘naive’. When we’re ‘sophisticated’, we realize that we have hyperbolic preferences and will probably take steps to deal with it. However, when we’re ‘naive’, we will not try to counteract the hyperbolic discounting effect.
25. Equivalence Framing
“The way things are stated or portrayed highly influences our choices”
“Equivalence framing” is the purposeful statement or portrayal of logically equivalent information in such a way that it encourages certain interpretations of the meaningful context, and discourages certain others. These “different, but logically equivalent frames” cause us to alter our preferences. Equivalency frames are often worded in opposite terms. Like “gains” versus “losses”, “full” versus “empty”, “fat” versus “fat-free”, etc.
Unlike emphasis framing (which focuses on different information), equivalence framing focuses on the same information and tries to phrase that information in the most persuasive way.
“We prefer to get the conclusion first”
Front-loading content means that you first give away the conclusion. Occasionally it can help to arouse one’s curiosity by not revealing the conclusion at first, but most of the time it works better if you start with the clue. So don’t spend time ‘leading up to your point’.
Our brain is processing huge amounts of information every second. Therefore, our brain prefers to process as little information as possible. Because users generally assess app, social, web, and mobile pages at a glance, you only have a few precious seconds to encourage people to read more, to take action, or to navigate to another one of your pages.
Providing information in such a way that it costs the least cognitive effort is therefore often the most persuasive tactic. By providing the most important information first, your prospect can quickly scan whether you offer something interesting and decide to invest more cognitive effort into judging your offer.
27. Present Focus Bias (or Immediacy Effect)
“We show a preference for rewards that arrive sooner rather than later”
When choosing between two options or rewards, we tend to prefer the most readily available option. In other words, the present and near-future are incredibly powerful. Dan Ariely explains the present focus bias as the ‘Adam and Eve problem’: “You can ask yourself how many of us would sacrifice eternity in the Garden of Eden, for an apple? Well it turns out we do it, and we do it all the time”.
So if we have to choose between an option right now, and a better option in the future, we tend to value the readily available option higher and undermine the long term. The sooner we can get an option, the higher we value it, and the more likely we’ll buy it.
28. Emphasis Framing
“The focus on specific subsets of relevant aspects highly influences our judgments”
To understand and make sense of the world around us, we constantly interpret the meaning of the things and events that we notice. We call this ‘framing’. For example, if you evaluate plans to encourage electrically powered bikes, you might interpret it as environmentally friendly when framed as a moped, but friendly when framed as a bike, and your response will be very different.
Emphasis framing is a persuasion technique where the focus is placed on those specific aspects of a solution that encourage certain interpretations of the meaningful context and discourage certain others. This way the meaningful context in which the choice at hand will be evaluated is influenced. For example, the same car can be presented as ‘low costs’ monetary frame as well as ‘fast and powerful’ social frame. Which frame will be the most persuasive and which one counter-effective, depends on the frames and meanings used by your customer.
This brings us to the end of the big list. Hope you enjoyed the insights. Stay tuned as I would be talking next on Cognitive Biases and how we’re all affected by them. Gracias, Ciao!