What Motivates Us to Change Our Life Experiences?

Let’s try to understand deeply this field called Behavioral Design or in other words — the architecture of choice.

Let’s put things on the table — we are all Behavioral Designers.

Lately there has been quite a bit of buzz around the subject of “Behavioral Design” and against all those who deal with the subject including the author of this column. I was accused by the vaccine opponents in Israel of helping the Israeli government convince citizens to get vaccinated against their will, using manipulations based on behavioral economics and playing with peoples’ minds.

But the truth is that we are all mind designers. The very fact that you make sure that there is a tray of cut vegetables in the refrigerator to hide the chocolate cake so that you are not tempted — you are engaged in shaping behavior. Even when you decide to close the chip bag with a chip clip and not just roll the opening of the closed bag, you are a designer of consciousness. Studies show that when it is more difficult for us to open the bag, the chance of being tempted to eat from it will decrease.

Understanding Behavioral Design

Let’s try to understand deeply this field called Behavioral Design or, in other words, the architecture of choice. Imagine that you decided to see a movie and bought a ticket for $15. You arrive at the ticket office and discover that you have forgotten your ticket. Will you pay another $15 for a new ticket?

Now, let’s try another question: You decided to see a movie, but you didn’t buy a ticket in advance. When you get to the checkout, you discover that you lost the $15 cash that was in your wallet. Will you still buy a ticket with a credit card?

In both cases it is the same financial loss, but in the first case the mental calculation or mental accounting, results in a strong feeling of frustration — as if we have paid double for the ticket. On the other hand, in the second case, the $15 you planned to spend on the movie are allegedly not related to the $15 in their wallets, so most people will still buy a ticket to the movie in the second scenario, but not in the first one.

It’s called framing — the exact same problem, in a different framing of things, will trigger completely different feelings. Framing the problem as in the first option leads to a terrible feeling of frustration. On the other hand, the loss of those $15 in the second option might bother us much less. Our decisions are driven by emotion, so the different framing will lead to completely different results, for the simple reason it evokes a different emotion in us.

Related Article: Most Prominent Psychological Principles That Govern Product Design

Information Processing Is Full of Cognitive Biases

These examples illustrate the new understandings we have formulated about human behavior, the understandings included in the discipline of behavioral economics, founded by Amos Tversky and Daniel Kahneman. They proved to the world that information process is full of cognitive biases.

But if humans do not obey rational laws, how can their behavior be predicted? Here comes the great discovery of Tversky and Kahneman: they have shown that while human beings do not follow pure economic logic, the deviations from the economic model are not random, but predictable.

Alongside Kahneman and Tversky was Professor Richard Thaler of the University of Chicago, who provided a wonderful explanation for the ticket issue for the film. He called the process “mental accounting.” According to him, we treat the same amount of money that comes from different sources differently. For example, if you won the lottery, your attitude to money will be different than if you worked washing floors to earn it. Thaler was the one who coined the term Nudge — an almost imperceptible intervention aimed at changing the way people make decisions and behave.

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