Which of these 2 candies do you think is more preferred?
- Reeses Peanut Butter Cups?
- Kit Kats?
- About the same?
I don’t know the answer.
So I decided to run a very non-scientific experiment on my colleagues in the San Francisco Office. But rather than just to see which fun-sized candy bar was more popular, I decided to test out some Psychology/Research/Jedi Nerd tricks to see if I can make one option more preferred over an arguably equal option.
In other words, can I make people think that they want Kit Kats over Reeses?
- I bought an assorted party bag of Kit Kat & Reeses (assuming equal count).
- I put the bag out on my desk next to an inviting sign that read, “Need a break? Treat Yo Self!”
I left the bag and sign out for a few weeks and today I counted the number of Reeses & Kit Kats left in the bag.
I sorted the candies that were left in the bag. My final count was…
… 39 Reeses to only 7 Kit Kats!
By a landslide, Kit Kats appear to be more popular!
The sign “Need a break” is very similar to Kit Kat’s theme song “Give me a break”. This in effect primed the folks of the San Francisco Office into preferring/thinking more about Kit Kats vs. Reeses. In Psychology, we call this effect Priming.
What is Priming?
Priming is the implicit memory effect in which exposure to a stimulus influences response to a later stimulus. It is a technique in psychology used to train a person’s memory both in positive and negative ways. (source)
In other words, priming is how one thing that we may not even be conscious of can make us think of another thing just because it is related. This quick mental access to the “other thing” can lead us to prefer that “other thing.”
For example, if I told you to think of a Ferrari, Christian Louboutin heels, and a lobster dinner, I’ve likely primed you to think of things associated with being rich and having money. But I may have also primed you to prefer the color red or at the very least, primed you to be quicker to access the color red.
So what have we learned here?
What we’ve learned here is that there are many factors that influence our decisions some obvious and some not so obvious. As UX and Usability practitioners, we should be aware of these influential forces on our users and responsibly apply them to craft an experience that satisfies rather than exploits.
As someone who has spoken to hundreds of users, watched thousands of hours of user video, and ran countless numbers of usability studies, nothing describes a bad user experience more than a heavily sighed, “Gimme a break!”
Learn more about priming: https://explorable.com/priming