Saturday, November 26, 2011

If you want people to save and think of the future, you need to shut up their emotional brain and activate their thinking brain

In a study by psychology professor Dan Ariely, people who had read the ten commands from the Bible before doing a test where they had the chance to cheat to get a better result, did not cheat at all, while others who had not read the commands from the Bible did.

This indicates that if you want someone to change behaviour, you could dig up their conscience and their inner moral voice, for them to convince themselves to take action.
I believe there is no such thing as “free will”, rather different voices in a person´s head, and depending on which parts you trigger, you can get different results.
When using market research you can ask questions in a survey and hear the respondents tell you this or that, but the challenge for advertisers is that most of us have contradictory wants, because we want it all! We want to stay fit, but we also want a double choc McFlurry! We want to save our liver, but we also want to have a couple of Coopers with friends. We want one thing NOW and another LATER, and many times these two wants crash...  
A good strategic planner reads between the quant study lines, understanding the complexity and struggle of being human. To get people to change their behaviour, you need to consider the whole picture.
When studying brains fighting the “reward NOW” or “reward LATER” battle, neurobiologists have found that the thinking, rational brain is an expert in telling people they can´t have it... The older, more emotional brain is impulsive and wants to have fun immediately, but the part of our brain developed later in human history, is the “parent” telling the heart to delay gratification, saying: “Hold on a second!!”
Let´s say a person has a choice between for example “buy new shoes today” or “save my cash for later”, a marketer of shoes should wake up her “you are worth it” voices by evoking the emotional part of the brain, make it stronger and louder than the “parent” brain. But if you want people to delay, you have to shut up the impulsive part of people´s brain by waking up their smart and long term thinking part. “Delay” is a behavioural change, but not an action – what you do is to STOP another more impulsive action.
Apparently some of us are naturals in waiting, while others are spontaneous by nature. A government that wants to stop people from over spending, has to find ways to make the “live today” crowd to activate their rational brain. It´s hard, since they have the craving and will refuse to simply be told. Just look at the reactions of the Greek population when the politicians tried to stop the crazy spending... You need to find out what their inner voice is saying, and make people convince themselves, to make them replace their emotional reaction with a rational thought.
When reading the ten commands before doing a test you are activating thoughts. The moral compass will consider other people, and the guilt they may feel later on, and you suppress the temptation to cheat. The power lies in that you are not telling people “stop cheating” but rather awakening “I am better than that”.

Reading tips: Emotionomics by Dan Hill and Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely. Also check: 

The study of delayed gratification was presented in Newsweek on Nov 7, 2011

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