I’ve always enjoyed reading about Richard Wiseman’s experiments. They’re almost always fun, quirky and provide a great way to jumpstart a conversation at parties. In case you’ve haven’t heard of him, he’s the dude who went on a hunt for that holiest of grails known as the world’s funniest joke. Ask yourself, can there be a more worthwhile calling? I know you’re piqued about the results, so here’s the link.
However, that’s not the particular experiment I’d like to point out today. This one hits a bit closer to home. Conducted a couple of years back, the esteemed Wiseman and his austere team of scientists brought it upon themselves to determine the pace of life in different cities by, well, measuring how fast people walked.
Things have been a bit crazy lately. It’s a bit hard to update regularly when you’re keeping 14-hour days. But I’m hoping it won’t carry on for too long and I’m sure I’ll be able to come up with a workable routine for this blog. Ancora Imparo. Anyway, here’s something that I know well enough that I don’t have to spend too much research on.
That fount of wisdom, H.L. Mencken, once defined wealth as “any income that is at least one hundred dollars more per year than the income of one’s wife’s sister’s husband.”
If you haven’t read the report, Wellness Village Spa, which used to operate out of the Pan Pacific Singapore Hotel, suddenly closed shop in the course of a day. Its phones were disconnected, its director, Lia Meyrina, vanished into thin air, and all that’s left are its former customers’ credit card debts. Around 500 of its clients owe credit card companies between S$550 to S$6,000 for payment of services that they’ll never be able to use.
I’m sure most business students would be familiar with Herzberg’s Motivation-Hygiene Theory and money’s place within it. In short, a person’s salary, no matter how high, would not be able to make her satisfied at work, it merely prevents her from being dissatisfied (hence, it is a hygiene factor). However, the Brafman brothers refer to several experiments that suggest that, at least in some circumstances, a monetary reward actually serves as a disincentive.
Ori and Rom Brafman recount an interesting episode that sheds light on the psychological effects that monetary incentives have on us. In Sway: The Irresistible Pull of Irrational Behaviour, they visit Switzerland in 1993, where the Swiss government was planning to designate either one of two small towns as nuclear waste repositories. Two researchers were interested as to how the townspeople would react and went out to get some answers.
Did you know that those gruesome images on cigarette boxes actually stimulate smokers’ cravings?
There’s a new brand of marketing research starting to gain momentum called ‘Neuromarketing’, which I find very illuminating. This entails researchers placing respondents inside fMRI or EEG machines (if you’re a big fan of House, you’d probably seen them before) to gauge their actual responses to certain stimuli. If I’m not wrong, machines like the fMRI identify the flow of oxygen to certain parts of the brain to gauge a person’s neurological response. For example, if you’re feeling guilty, there will be an increased flow of oxygen to your prefrontal cortex, the part of your brain that controls that particular emotion. I’ve never liked using questionnaires, you hardly ever get a genuine response – well, at least I hardly ever give a genuine response (oops!). Neuromarketing circumvents this problem because well, want to bluff also cannot bluff.
Apparently, these researchers found that health warnings stimulated smokers’ nucleus accumbens, generally known as the ‘craving spot’. So, images of cancer-ridden lungs actually promote smoking! Who would have thought? Martin Lindstrom’s book, Buyology: Truth and Lies About Why We Buy, is an excellent account of neuromarketing’s rapid progress. I find it fascinating, don’t you?