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psychology

The Things We Do: Regret can trip us up- before we’ve even begun

Roxanne Bauer's picture

Few people doubt the merits of pausing to "think things through" before making a decision. Without doing so, we fear we may end up making a decision that leads to harm and misfortune.  However, this process is itself a double-edged sword that can lead us astray.

Boy thinkingWe've all been forced to make tough decisions in life. From career progression and where to live to which route to take on a trip, we navigate life's choices by considering our options and weighing them against each other. In the context of these decisions, we attempt to predict the negative consequences from an action or decision and the likelihood that those consequences will actually occur. 

Regret- we seek to avoid it when we can

In a famous study on Regret Theory, Loomes and Sugden present the idea that in making decisions, individuals not only consider the knowledge they have and the resources at their disposal, but also the likely scenarios that will result from their choices.  They further suggest that the pleasure associated with the results of their choices depends not only on the nature of those results but also on the nature of alternative results. Individuals consider the regret their future selves may feel if they know they would have been better if they had chosen differently. Likewise, they consider the joy their future selves may feel if the consequences of their decisions turn out to be optimal. Thus, both a cause and a consequence of our desire to avoid losses (loss aversion) is our desire to avoid the pain of regret. 
 
According to researchers, individuals exhibit “regret aversion” when they fear their decision will turn out to be wrong in hindsight. Sometimes, we engage in regret aversion before making a decision, leading us to hem and haw and lose out on opportunities. Other times, we engage in regret aversion after a decision is already made, leading us to hold on to losing assets or undesirable positions because we don’t want to admit our choice was not the best one. Many of the interventions that behavioral economists suggest, such as automatic enrollment, default options, and providing information to consumers, are set up to reduce the ex post regret individuals will face for not doing something that’s in their interest.

​The Things We Do: Is the Culture of Banking Dishonest?

Roxanne Bauer's picture

Despite its relevance to the broader economy of states, there exists little empirical information on the culture of the banking industry. Identifying the effects of business culture poses several challenges because comparing employees in one sector to those in another can be misleading. Some professions may naturally attract different kinds of people, making it tricky to separate cultural factors from individual ones. Moreover, the financial industry is broad and comprised of many different kinds of businesses and institutions, with some more focused on the consumer and others more focused on fiscal details.

Attempting to shed light on the subject, academics from the University of Zurich designed an experiment inspired by the economic theory of identity.  Identity economics states that economic choices are not only based on personal taste but also on what an individual considers to be appropriate.  Whether a choice is appropriate or not depends on a person’s social identity– their sexual orientation, race, religion, occupation, or where they live.

In the experiment, 128 employees from an international bank, with an average of 11.6 years of experience in the financial sector, were split into two groups. About half of the participants worked in a core business unit, like private banking, asset management, trading, or investment management.  The other half worked in support units like human resources or administration. They were randomly assigned to a treatment or control group.

Weekly Wire: The Global Forum

Roxanne Bauer's picture

These are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.

Out in the Open: This Man Wants to Turn Data Into Free Food (And So Much More)
Wired
Let’s say your city releases a list of all trees planted on its public property. It would be a godsend—at least in theory. You could filter the data into a list of all the fruit and nut trees in the city, transfer it into an online database, and create a smartphone app that helps anyone find free food. Such is promise of “open data”—the massive troves of public information our governments now post to the net. The hope is that, if governments share enough of this data with the world at large, hackers and entrepreneurs will find a way of putting it to good use. But although so much of this government data is now available, the revolution hasn’t exactly happened.

Four mobile-based tools that can bring education to millions
The Guardian
“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world”, Nelson Mandela is famed for saying. Yet access to good quality learning is still denied to millions around the world, particularly in developing countries where teaching standards and education facilities are often poor. The ubiquity of mobile phones is presenting educators with a new, low-cost tool for teaching. Here we look at four mobile-based solutions delivering real results for low-income learners.

The Things We Do: Why are World Cup Fans so Crazy?

Roxanne Bauer's picture

The World Cup started in Brazil on June 12. This means that the next few weeks will be filled with anger, anguish, joy, and triumph.  Sports fans have always been deeply emotional and obsessed… but also incomprehensible to those who ‘don’t get it.’  Why do fans paint their faces, dye their hair, or engage in bizarre rituals for good luck? Why do we still cheer for our teams despite corruption or other misdeeds? 

Edward Hirt, a psychology professor at Indiana University in the US, has researched sports psychology, and he says, "As human beings, we have this desire to feel a sense of belonging or a sense of social connectedness with others, and being a part of different groups (gives) us identities."  Scientists have shown that fans who feel personally invested in a team or who attend games and cheer with their fellow fans reap mental health benefits that come from feeling social connected.
 

The Things We Do: Will Money Make You Mean?

Roxanne Bauer's picture
In a TEDTalk published Dec 20, 2013, social psychologist Paul Piff shares the results of several research studies on how people behave when they feel wealthy. He concludes that while inequality is a complex and formidable challenge, there are bright spots, too. 
 
In the first study, two participants are asked to play Monopoly, but one player is given more money than the other.  Throughout the course of the game, the 'rich' player moved around the board louder, made sounds of dominance and non-verbal displays of power, and became ruder and less sympathetic to the 'poor' player.  After the game ended and the rich player won, the rich player talked about what he/she did and bought during the game to explain the outcome- they did not mention the unfair advantage they were given at the start of the game.

Piff believes that Monopoly can be used as a metaphor for many contemporary societies in which some people are born with more access to resources, money and power. 
 
TED Talks, Paul Piff

Trauma and Psychosocial Well-being: Is it our Business?

Alys Willman's picture

Here is a situation that’s happened to me; maybe it’s happened to you, too. You’re on mission, finishing up a meeting.  You’re closing your notebook, your head’s in the next meeting already, and one of the people you’ve just met with asks if you have a second.

Before you can react, she’s telling you her story. It’s a very difficult story, full of experiences you can’t imagine living through yourself. She seems to have gone back into the story in her mind – her eyes are focused beyond you, her hands tremble, and her eyes water.

Assuming you are not a trained social worker, it’s likely you have few skills you can immediately draw on to help her. And you wonder how many others like her are facing similar circumstances. 

What does any of this have to do with our business? Our work brings us into contact with people and groups that have experienced extremely stressful events and situations – from grinding poverty, to forced displacement, war and natural disasters. We come into contact with some of the most wounded and most resilient people in the world. While that strength helps them survive in the face of huge challenges, these “invisible wounds” – if not addressed – take a huge toll on them and their loved ones.

The Things We Do: Why We Procrastinate

Roxanne Bauer's picture

At the basis of communication and public policy are assumptions about human beings- their rationality or irrationality, their foibles, wants and preferences. A lot depends on whether these assumptions are correct. In this feature, we bring you fascinating examples of human behavior from across the globe.

In our first edition of "The Things We Do," we explore one reason why we procrastinate.  In a blog post from Nautilus, entitled, "Why We Procrastinate," we learn that:

"It turns out that we see our future selves as strangers. Though we will inevitably share their fates, the people we will become in a decade, quarter century, or more, are unknown to us. This impedes our ability to make good choices on their—which of course is our own—behalf. That bright, shiny New Year’s resolution? If you feel perfectly justified in breaking it, it may be because it feels like it was a promise someone else made."


So, if a poor connection to your future self leads to procrastination, can strengthening this connection be an effective remedy as well?

Psychological First Aid for Sri Lanka

Ananda Galappatti's picture



Major crises like wars and disasters affect the lives of millions of people around the world. Sri Lanka itself has experienced the devastating consequences of a brutal 30-year war, violent insurrection and the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami.  Whilst mental health and psychosocial services have evolved to help survivors of these crises to cope with and recover from these impacts, it has often been a challenge to providing effective support at the scale required and in a timely manner.
 
For some affected people, the mental health and psychosocial consequences can be serious and long-lasting.  However, for others, access to appropriate material and social support can bolster their ability to cope with the losses and hardships created by disaster and conflict.  Given the limited specialized human resources available for mental health and psychosocial support in low and middle-income settings around the world – including in Sri Lanka – it is vital to develop approaches that can strengthen families’ and communities’ own capacity for resilience in the face of adversity.

A ‘Losing Prospect’ Argument for Changing Sanitation Behaviour

Nidhi Khurana's picture

Sabrina Haque/World BankFact #1: One in six people still defecate in the open. 
Fact #2: Most of them are not entirely convinced that a toilet does any good.
Fact #3: Many of the recent toilet adopters still like to go in the open.

I don’t mean to be alarmist, but these signal a need for a shift in thinking about the complex problem of addressing behaviour change with respect to toilet adoption.

Quote of the Week: Jenna Wortham

Sina Odugbemi's picture

"But the iPhone 5C, which is only marginally better than its predecessors, is designed to make people feel good about buying what is essentially an old phone, repackaged in colorful plastic. The psychology of the new, in other words. Because for better or worse, Apple isn’t just about ownership — it’s about shownership, and inspiring desire and jealousy in those around you that you’ve got the latest device."

- Jenna Wortham , Technology Reporter for The New York Times


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