Author Archives: bryanvillalobos

Cognitive Psychology in Marketing

During the second portion of this semester, we have talked a great deal about cognitive biases. In a very simplistic way, cognitive biases are just errors in the way we think and in the decisions we make. A great deal of these errors are brought upon by our use of mental shortcuts, also known as heuristics. Much of what we know about heuristics comes from the work of Kahneman and Tversky. They have introduced concepts like availability heuristics, which states we tend to judge the probability of an event based on how easy we are able to recall past examples of that event. The work that Kahneman and Tversky have done has completely changed how we view consumer behavior. The way cognitive psychology, more specifically cognitive biases, has influenced the way we think about marketing is precisely what this article talks about.

In this article, Jayson DeMers aims to talks about a variety of cognitive biases and how companies can use each one of these biases to gain more money from consumers. He starts off by discussing how human beings are geared toward loss aversion. We are more prone to focus on a possible loss than on a possible gain of the same amount. Marketers know this and will, therefore, create advertisements that emphasize the avoidance of a loss. Marketers also use this knowledge when they tend to be very precise and careful with how they word the possibility of a loss.

This voucher example shows how marketers will purposely emphasize the fact that you are saving $5 rather than gaining $5. Vouchers like this work because they reiterate that you will lose $5 if you do not use the coupon by the expiration date.

DeMers then moved on to talk about one of my least favorite cognitive bias, anchoring. Anytime we have made a decision by selecting a starting point and adjusted our estimates from there it is likely we have fallen prey to anchoring. One of the reasons I hate this bias is because of the number of times I have let it get the best of me. Just last semester I was scrolling through the BestBuy website looking at flash drives with absolutely no intentions of buying anything. The website was set up so that the more expensive flash drives were shown first and so when I got to the bottom of the list they were much cheaper and seemed like a much more reasonable purchase.

To make matters even worse, when I clicked on one of the decent looking flash drives it showed the “was $59.99” right next to the $20 price tag and I began thinking about how much money I’d be saving if I bought it (which I foolishly did). DeMers discusses how marketers will purposely expose us to overpriced products and services so that we will be more willing to purchase the cheaper product that they were actually hoping to sell.

Although Jayson DeMers also talked about some of the other cognitive biases we have discussed in class, like framing and priming, he did not do a very good job of relating them back to the main topic. DeMers did a great job of explaining what cognitive biases were and what each of them meant but he hardly discussed how these biases have/will influence marketing. When he did discuss their influence, it was often with a sentence or two without much context. His lack of real-world examples made it extremely hard to think about the concepts past their surface level definitions. All of the real world examples in this blog post were things that I thought of and found pictures for. While this did cause me to think about cognitive biases on a much more personal and practical level, it also showed that DeMers really did not do a great job of conveying the real world applications of cognitive biases in marketing. Which is honestly a shame because this topic highly interests me and I would have loved to read more in depth about it. Crazy enough, reading this article and writing this blog post has made me realize how great, challenging and interesting a career in marketing would be.



The Glasses that fix Colorblindness

It’s hard to imagine how different life would be if one couldn’t see colors in the same way everyone else can. Your favorite shirt might not be your favorite after all. Your favorite movie scene might look much different than you think does. In a certain way, being color blind would mean that you’re never really sure what the world around you really looks like. Thankfully after years of research, a product was invented to give people the chance to experience the world the way it really is. In 2010, EnChroma was founded as the company that gives the 250,000+ people around the world suffering from colorblindness the opportunity to fully see color with EnChroma glasses.

To put into perspective how these glasses function, one must first understand the causes of colorblindness. The retina has two photoreceptors that absorb light, rods and cones. Rods help us see in low lit conditions, usually at night. On the other hand, cones are mainly used during the daytime and are responsible for our recognition of color. Our eyes have three types of cones: one for blue light, one for green light, and one for red light. Light enters our eyes it stimulates these cones in the back of our eyes. These cones then stimulate bipolar cell which stimulates ganglion cells and the process continues. Although the process is obviously important for vision, we will not get into that because what matters most here is what happens at the cones. In colorblind individuals, these cones respond differently to light than they normally should; they are faulty.  Typically the cause of most color blindness results from green and red sensitive cones overlapping in their responses to light. In other words, rather than responding to each light wavelength separately, they respond in a very similar way. EnChroma glasses work by removing wavelengths of light in the spot where the overlap is happening. This seemingly simple and painless process has changed the lives of many people.

My best friend, Isaiah, has trouble distinguishing green and red colors. I remember he would always make jokes in high school about how he’d never get his driver’s license because he would not know what to do at a stop light. Last summer, his family gifted him with a pair of EnChroma glasses for his birthday and his reaction upon putting them on is absolutely priceless (video below).

As I was talking to him today, I realized how much these glasses meant to him. He told me that he thought it was insane how he’s a twenty-one-year-old adult but he’s just now seeing how some common everyday objects really look for the first time in his life. He told me that he recently went back and played some of his favorite childhood video games while wearing the EnChroma glasses and said that the experience was completely different, “everything seemed so much more colorful and upbeat”. These glasses gave him the ability to perceive the world the same way everyone else does. Although the EnChroma glasses are not a cure for colorblindness, they have successfully given 80% of its users the freedom to no longer wonder what they may be missing in terms of color vision. This beautifully wonderful product that has put tears and smiles on so many faces and my only hope is that more of these 250,000+ colorblind individuals get to try them at least once in their lifetime.



A closer look into road rage: How and why it happens

As we were discussing driving the other day, I noticed that almost everyone raised their hand when Dr. Rettinger asked whether we had been driving for more than five years. This leads me to assume that at some point within those five years we have all, at least once, been the victim of road rage or have been the source of someone else’s road rage. In simple terms, rage road is angry or aggressive behavior displayed by a driver as a result of something that negatively impacted their driving experience. Road rage can simply be an unkind hand gesture, insult, or even physical violence.

In an attempt to better understand why road rage exists, Dr. Reidbord looked our perception. Perception, another important topic with have discussed in class, essentially describes our mental interpretation and representation of the stimuli we perceive.  What Dr. Reidbord found is that the cause of road rage is almost never the actual offensive that the victim experiences. In other words, road rage is rarely the result of being cut off, slow drivers, or almost crashing. Instead, it is the interpretation of our perception of the offensive that causes road rage. To exemplify this, when you get passed on I-95 and the driver almost hits your car as he passes, you immediately view that driver as having no respect for you. One assumes that the other driver just views his or her own time as being more valuable and that they do not care about anyone else’s wellbeing. It turns out this mindset is very commonly the cause of road rage.

One factor that furthers our road rage is that there is no easy way to communicate with the aggressive driver. There is no easy way to tell whether the driver that just cut us off did so because they are a terrible human being or because they are trying to rush to the hospital. Since we tent to paint the actions of other drivers as being intentional and malicious, it’s rather easy to see how most road rage is a self-product of our own mind.  This knowledge of our tendency to assume the worst of other drivers can help us control our road rage. It is research like that of Dr. Reidbord and many others that are actually influencing how driver’s education courses are being taught.

A couple summers ago, I had to take a driver’s improvement course for a speeding ticket I received. One of the things I vividly remember the instructor discussing in the course was the different methods for reducing road rage. The first tip was to change how we perceive the actions of others. This program urged drivers to shift from an accusatory mindset to one that gives other drivers the benefit of the doubt. This goes back to the idea of being able to find positive reasoning for the actions of other drivers.

I think the influence of perception is very interesting. Much like Dr. Reidbord states, further examining our perception can also help us understand why we get angry when someone brings more than 15 items into the 15 items or less lane at Walmart. Overall, I believe that by devoting more time to studying perception we can advance our understanding with regards to why human beings respond to the world around them in the way that they do.


Learning Through Failure

Although the term “learning from your mistakes” has become a bit of a cliché, it turns out there is actually truth behind the phrase. Nate Kornell was interested in clearing up misconceptions about ways to better store information in our memory.  According to this article by Nate and Sam Kornell, our mistakes provide unique opportunities to further our understanding of the subject in question in a way that long and repetitive studying can not.  In this study, Nate challenged the education theory, which is the idea that the best learning occurs when we learn something the right way from the start. Nate opposed the education theory because his data revealed that mistakes actually improve learning instead of hindering it.

In order to exemplify his hypothesis, Nate conducted an experiment in which he made one group of students take an extremely hard test without giving them the answers until after they completed the test. He gave the second group of students the questions and answers at the same time. On a later test, Nate found that these first group of students scored significantly better because they were able to think more critically about each question, were allowed to make mistakes, and then learn from those mistakes. In other words, Nate claims that we are able to learn more from errors due to the fact that we pay much more attention and focus on difficult questions that we do not know the answer to. In addition, our innate frustration with failure and making errors motivates us to find a solution to whatever we do not know.

Related image

Although I would never enjoy taking a course in which the professor purposely makes the exams extremely difficult, I do see how they prove to be useful in aiding to our ability to learn information in a more effective way. In my own experience, I typically study for my big exams in a way that allows me to fail during my studying so that I will not make that mistake when taking the actual exam. To exemplify, I begin my studying by listing off all the things I remember about the material and then I go back and look at the things I failed to remember; these mistakes are what I spend a great deal of my studying on. Although it may seem like a very simplistic and obvious strategy, I know plenty of students who spend hours upon hours looking at every little thing without first testing themselves on areas where they fall short.

I am also able to learn a lot when I get my exams back. Even before professors began incorporating material from old test into new one, like Dr. Rettinger does when he puts one question from last week’s quiz into the current week’s quiz, I would always go back to my old exams and figure out what I got wrong before I even thought about studying for the next test. It is a method that I have found to be extremely useful in my academic life and it is one that is supported by Nate’s research. In addition to the already stated reasoning, I think Nate’s theory of the benefits of learning from mistakes also comes from the fact that it is easier to remember things we got wrong than to remember things we got right because these mistakes imprint themselves into our brains in a very similar way that many active learning methods do.

Even though the main focus of Nate’s theory was rather specific to students and their academic, I think his research could prove to have extremely useful applications in the real world. Not only could it change the way teachers create assessments, it could change how we consume and memorize information on a much larger scale.