Coursera – A Beginner’s Guide to Irrational Behavior

DukeFantastic class!  Interesting, insightful, and very entertaining 🙂  Though I read about some of the referenced research before, the entire collection of the class is a spectacular testament to our irrationality as species.  As the class states, this is completely OK, as we adjust our physical environment for our bodies, we can adjust our mental environment to suit our minds.

A very insightful point: subliminal priming.  Subliminally exposing people to different logos (IBM and Apple) influences their behavior.  People primed with Apple logo were measurably more creative in subsequent task and people primed with IBM logo, were slightly less creative than average (per Duke University research).  Daily exposures to brand logos seem to be quite valuable  😉

Dan presented wonderful research on the size of the incentive (aka “bonus”) in physical and mental tasks.  Though the experiments in this field clearly show the lack of any positive effect of the bonus on performance (and a significant negative effect), it is surprising how often the bonus structure is used in the society.


A slide below shows an influence of a “not so good” offer on a choice.  Given two offers:  an online magazine for less money and online plus printed magazine for more money, people generally select a less expensive offer,  However, if the third choice is added – an offer of printed magazine only for the exactly the same amount as online plus printed, most people chose online plus printed.  Suddenly, the other offer becomes more attractive.


How to sell something using the power of “free”:  more people will buy a desired object, if the object can look inexpensive or free.  Stating that the book costs $10 and the shipping costs $10 is much less effective than stating that the book costs 0, but the shipping cost $20.


Using of the social proof: more people will find the offer or activity attractive if they are informed that other people do exactly the same.  Plus, if the other people can be narrowly associated with the individual, the offer or activity became even more attractive.

A statement in the hotel encouraging people to reuse towels with a statement that 75% of other hotel guests reuse towels is more effective than just a request to help the environment.  The same statement indicating that 75% of the people who stayed in this room reused towels is more effective than, general hotel statement.  It made the “herd” closer to the person who made the decision.


yesAlso interesting: asking people if they plan to do something (such as vote) increases probability that they would do it.  However, asking people to set a plan when they will vote, increases the probability event more.

Also interesting, telling people that few citizens vote and election is close is less effective in generating voter turnout than stating that many people vote.  People seem to like to behave in the same way as “many other people like me.”  😉

A very important point for me personally to remember is relationship between perception of data and emotion – I love data!  However, it is not recently what can persuade and convince.

Adding statistics into equation dampens our emotional response

More fantastic resources can be found at the center of advanced hindsight


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