Much research has evidenced the law of reciprocation (if I do something for you, you’re more likely to do something for me in return) but how much can reciprocation be influenced? And does the amount of effort that is put into the initial activity have a subsequent effect on the likelihood and the amount of reciprocity that is given in return?
An experimenter held a door open for a participant in either a low-effort or high-effort condition. Total participants 194.
Low effort condition: The experimenter walked in front of the participant and propped the door open with his shoulder, while looking down at his mobile phone.
High-effort condition: The experimenter held the door open with his free hand while the participant exited the building before them. They also looked and smiled at the participant whilst doing so.
People were more likely to thank the experimenter in the high-effort condition. In the low-effort condition, 50% of participants thanked the experimenter versus 84.9% in the high-effort condition.
Verbal thanks was not a predictor of subsequent helping behaviour.
The experimenter dropped pens onto the floor after holding open the door for the person. In total, 27% of participants helped the experimenter to pick up the pens. Of these, most (64%) had took part in the high-effort condition, with 19% being in the low-effort condition.
The likelihood of participants’ helping to pick up the pens varied with physical distance. The experimenter waited for the participant to walk a specific number of steps out of the building before dropping the pens. Participants were more likely to help, the less steps they had taken. Participants in the high-effort condition helped in greater proportion at all distances when compared to the low-effort condition.
Participants verbally thanked and reciprocated more frequently in the high-effort condition.
How to use this
Rather than simply offering your customers a discount or freebie, think of what you could offer that would be perceived by them as having taken greater effort.
Fox GR, Araujo HF, Metke MJ, Shafer C and Damasio A (2015) How Does the Effort Spent to Hold a Door Affect Verbal Thanks and Reciprocal Help?
Panic buying is what people naturally do when faced with an imminent disaster, like the spread of the coronavirus. Whilst it may seem irrational, it actually has a psychologically rational basis.
Panic buying toilet paper has become a major focus in the media and supermarket shelves have been stripped bare. There have been fights in stores over toilet roll and I saw one guy running down the aisle to grab a packet. It’s pretty crazy! Why is everyone so panicked about loo roll? Let’s have a look at the psychology to find out.
The role of the media
The media have played a major role in creating anxiety in people with regards to running out of essential items and food. All we see in the news every day, is coverage of shops running out of items and reports of panic buying. There were even some reports of people fighting over toilet roll.
They had experts debating whether shops would be able to keep up with demand and would we run out of food? These reports went on not just for days, but weeks, and if they didn’t have an effect on you at first, the cumulative daily reporting becomes an internal ear worm. And, if you weren’t worried about how many toilet rolls were in your home, you soon had that nagging voice in your head about whether you should be going out and buying more, you know just in case…
It’s become a self fulfilling prophecy
When the media continuously show us images of empty toilet roll shelves, it enhances our belief that this problem might exist in our own local supermarkets. We begin to worry that when we next go shopping we might see empty shelves too. The more people who see these images and news reports, the more likely they’ll be to pick up extra toilet roll on their next shop and soon enough it becomes a real problem and there are empty shelves in your local supermarket. Your belief of what would happen, became your behaviour – you made it a reality.
Toilet paper is a cleanliness product
The main messages we’re being given about Covid19 are all about hygiene and cleanliness. We’re being told to wash our hands, not touch our face, not to get too close to other people… Toilet paper is a cleanliness product and therefore, buying it adds to that sense of feeling more clean and this makes us feel more secure, as we feel like we’re following the advice.
We’re a social species that imitates what others are doing. So when we see that a large amount of people are acting in a certain way, we have a very natural instinct to copy this behaviour. When you see images of empty shelves and hear that your friends are all stockpiling toilet rolls, you think to yourself, “Well, maybe I should be doing this too.”
When other people hoard and they share images of empty shelves all over social media, it sets an example for others to imitate.
If everyone else on the Titanic is running for the lifeboats, you’re going to run too, regardless if the ship’s sinking or not – Steven Taylor
Seeing reports of empty shelves on the news and then, seeing them for yourself in real life validates any concerns you may have had and can trigger that urge to grab whatever is left. You may feel a sense of panic triggered by seeing it for yourself. When things are scarce they also hold more value to us. So when it’s difficult to find toilet roll, suddenly your perceived value of toilet roll increases, making the urge to buy it more intense. Hoarding is a natural human response to perceived scarcity. But this irrational panic buying can also lead to price gouging, and we’ve already seen this with prices on eBay for things like toilet roll and hand sanitiser going through the roof! These price increases add to it being seen as a scarce product. What started as perceived scarcity becomes actual scarcity.
Fear of loss and loss aversion
If we later realise that we need toilet paper and we didn’t buy it when we had the chance, we will feel bad. A study by Kahneman and Tversky showed that losing $100 feels twice as strong as winning $100. This is why we have such an aversion to loss – it physically hurts us more.
Can you see how the red loss line is steeper than the blue gain line in the below diagram? This means that $100 loss is 2x more painful than a $100 gain.
Hoarding is a natural response to stress
Now is a time of uncertainty and social isolation. These factors can psychologically motivate people to buy things they don’t need, especially people who struggle to tolerate uncertainty. One of the strongest predictors of hoarding behaviour is a person’s perceived inability to tolerate distress. If it’s in a person’s general nature to avoid distress, they are more likely to buy more products than they need. This type of person will find it more difficult to believe the government when they announce supermarkets will not close or that the supply chain is strong. Or, if they do believe them, they may decide it’s best to be prepared, just in case things change. In the post-brexit era, trust in the government for many people is low, and when public trust in the government to handle a crisis is low, panic buying is more likely to occur.
People want to feel more in control and less anxious
This whole situation is changing rapidly. Every day there is a new announcement from the government and the speed at which our lives are changing is a shock to the system. People are feeling out of control. Panic buying is fuelled by anxiety, and a willingness to go to lengths to alleviate those fears: like queueing for hours or and buying way more toilet rolls than you need!
People react to extreme situations with extreme behaviour
Compared to past pandemics, the global response to the coronavirus has been one of widespread panic. Steven Taylor is a clinical psychologist and author of The Psychology of Pandemics, he says “On the one hand, [the response is] understandable, but on the other hand it’s excessive. The coronavirus scares people because it’s new, and there’s a lot about it that’s still unknown. When people hear conflicting messages about the risk it poses and how seriously they should prepare for it, they tend to resort to the extreme. When people are told something dangerous is coming, but all you need to do is wash your hands, the action doesn’t seem proportionate to the threat. Special danger needs special precautions.”
Zero risk bias
Research on decision-making has documented a zero risk bias. People like the idea of eliminating one category of risk entirely, even if it is something as seemingly silly as running out of toilet paper. People can get complete control over that one little thing in their lives and feel like they are doing something.
People are motivated largely by self-interest and to avoid suffering (whether physical or emotional, real or perceived). We spend time evaluating possible risks and reducing them, because it means we get to live a longer life. And while it may not make much rational sense to hoard packs of loo roll, it makes us feel like we’re taking some precautions to minimise risk. And remember, different people have different risk tolerances. So whilst you might feel perfectly fine about not overbuying loo roll, another person may need to.
Understanding the psychology behind our shopping behaviour can help us to make more rational purchases during this time. If you’re feeling compelled to panic buy, it might be worth asking what it is you’re really afraid of.
This is just a quick post to tell you about the launch of our new site MediaCityUX.com
As I’m sure you already know, I run three UX businesses:
Keep It Usable: Human-driven research and design. Award-winning user experiences, service design and innovation based on Psychology, Science and Behavioural insights. You’ll often see us speaking at events and educating about how Psychology can be used to change behaviour in digital experiences and persuade people to buy online!
Our work has been showcased at 10 Downing Street, won awards and featured on BBC’s Horizon. We’ve also appeared on BBC Breakfast, radio and at events, sharing our expertise.
Home UX Lab: Pioneering homely style research lab, combining the benefits (validity) of ethnographic research with the rigour of a lab. Home lab has been the inspiration for multiple home style labs since we invented it.
I Need Users: The only participant recruitment agency run by UX experts. Shorter lead times, last minute recruitment options, extra screening processes, better quality users and less dropouts. Worldwide user recruitment.
They’re all based at Media City here in the UK, although we work worldwide for global clients. So, we created MediaCityUX.com for you to easily find UX services when you need them. Whether that’s a full design project or research piece by Keep It Usable, needing to rent a lab in the UK (Manchester) or needing participants for your own research.
This is a true story about Expedia, human error and bad customer experience that ends with a nice bit of karma for the customer… 😉
Next week I’m running a workshop at UX Live in London and being from Manchester I needed to book somewhere in London to stay for the event. So earlier this week I went online to book my hotel. I don’t have a preferred hotel or website that I book with, so my starting place, like many people, is Google. I’m really into using Google map view to find hotels as I can see how close the hotel is to the tube and I can check long it will take me to get there from Euston and my place of work during that time, plus I can see all the prices of the hotels to find something within the budget I’m given.
(Image represents the Google UI. This is not the hotel I booked with)
Expedia user error
I’ve been extremely busy this week and I had about 10 different hotel tabs open to compare all the different hotels. Add to this distractions in the office and at some point during this process I accidentally chose dates in November as opposed to October.
I used the calendar date picker to select the last Wednesday to Saturday of the month, as opposed to focussing on the dates. I did this in either Google or Expedia, I can’t recall which one it was (probably Google) but it looked something like this:
It was the next day, less than 24 hours later, that I was looking at my calendar to book in a meeting when I noticed the hotel was there in my calendar for November! I instantly knew the mistake I’d made.
Expedia call centre experience
The ticket I’d booked was non-refundable because I knew I was definitely going to the event next week. However my mistake was a bit of an odd situation in that I didn’t need my reservation refunding and I wasn’t changing the date because I’d changed my mind – it was simply human error when using the website and it was a genuine mistake. My hope was that if I explained this and they could see it was less than 24 hours since I’d booked it that they’d understand this was a genuine mistake and change the booking.
I called the hotel first but they told me I needed to call Expedia to change the booking. So, I then called Expedia and got through to their call centre. The lady I spoke with said she would call the hotel to check if the dates could be changed, she also told me that if we were cut off she would call me back (I thought this was a very odd thing to say and immediately suspected that she was planning to cut me off despite me being incredibly polite in my request). Low and behold she put me on hold, then about 10 seconds later I heard background noise as if she had picked up the call then I was cut off!
20 minutes later and she didn’t call me back as promised so I called again…
This time I spoke with a different person and I explained what had happened, including my previous call. This gentleman said the same thing to me – that he would call the hotel and that if we were cut off he’d call me back. He put me on hold, after a few moments I then heard the background noise of the call centre followed by being cut off. He also didn’t call me back as promised.
I called again…
I explained to another lady what had happened and she told me she would call the hotel to check if they would accept the change in dates. Interestingly she didn’t say the line about ‘if we’re cut off I’ll call you back’ so I suspected she was actually planning to help me, unlike her colleagues. Unfortunately, she said the hotel were unwilling to change the dates as it’s a non-refundable booking and I’d basically have to wave goodbye to £300. I asked her for the number she called so I could call the hotel myself.
I called them and they said there was nothing they could do as it was the front of house number not the central reservations number, so the lady had called the wrong number anyway! There’s no wonder they couldn’t do anything. I wasn’t impressed. Yet another Expedia fail – these peeple were useless.
I called the hotel central reservations and would you believe it, they were willing to change the booking dates as long as I paid an extra £30 when I arrived at the hotel. Hooray! Yep sure, no problem! They said they’d call Expedia to get them to change the booking.
Later that day I had a call from Expedia – it turned out to be the last lady I spoke with. She said because of the change of dates I was to be refunded £30 as those dates were cheaper. She also said she was really pleased that she had been able to get a solution for me. Excuse me? Was this woman deluded? She hadn’t found the solution, I had!
This story gets better though…
Later, I received another call from Expedia. This gentleman had a very strong accent and he had to explain himself about 6 times to me because I simply didn’t understand what he was trying to tell me. I finally piece together that he wants to charge me £30 because there was a ‘human error’ earlier by the Expedia lady. Apparently she shouldn’t have refunded me the £30 because the booking was non-refundable.
When I made a human error they wouldn’t forgive it and would have happily taken £300 from me. They make an error and they want me to let it go and pay them back the £30.
They put me on hold so I found myself with time to think about this… There were so many great things going through my mind that I could say at this point… should I tell them I have a non-refundable policy like theirs… should I complain about how inept their service team is…
I found myself thinking back to how they treated me in my previous calls; they hung up on me. So I decided it was time for karma to prevail… let’s treat them in the same way they treat their customers and perhaps they’ll learn a valuable lesson…
I smiled to myself and hung up.
They didn’t call back.
The lesson: Customer Experience is crucial to get right and it’s not enough to simply look at your digital User Experiences in isolation of all customer touchpoints with your business. There’s absolutely no chance I’ll ever book with Expedia again!
I’ve been waiting AGES to get a new mobile. I had my heart set on the Samsung Note until it started exploding… I checked out the Pixel but wasn’t impressed by the hardware – it felt cheap and I didn’t like the back of it. I even considered the iPhone, after all I’m a loyal Apple customer, all my other devices are Apple so why not my phone too? But although I love the hardware of the iPhone, I’m just not overly impressed by what’s inside. It feels like they’re not pioneering in the mobile sphere as much as they used to. They’ve got a bit comfortable…
So, when I heard of the Samsung Galaxy S8, I tried not to get my hopes up too much. However, when I saw it in the Samsung Experience store I was suitably impressed.
The hardware is NICEEEE! I’ll admit, I’m a hardware snob. What can I say, I used to work in mobile hardware so I’m now a bit fussy about good looking, high quality feeling devices. And boy, does the S8 feel high quality! Rounded edges, a good weight and classic shiny black finish that blends seamlessly into the infinity screen. Weight is important as a heavy phone is more likely to be dropped, whereas a light phone will psychologically feel cheap. It’s a fine balance.
The hardware keys are easy to locate by finger touch. However, the finger print scanner and the health sensors are very close to the camera lens. The topography of each is difficult to feel by touch alone so there’s a risk of getting finger prints over the lens if you’re not careful (although a case solves this).
I went for the S8 because I’ve been using a Note and I find it too big to use one-handed. It’s nice to mix things up a bit so I thought I’d drop down in size for this phone and maybe go up again after that. Using a bigger screen is a really nice experience, however because the screen in the S8 is tall and narrow as well as being edge-to-edge, the phone manages to be physically smaller but with a larger screen larger than bigger mobiles.
Software, setup and user interface
The setup process was relatively easy. It took longer than I expected (and longer than it takes on iPhones), which was surprising because I’d already backed up my old phone ready for the transfer. There are a lot of steps and a lot of small print to accept.
There’s also a lot to remember.
Much of the setup process involves teaching you how to use the phone, including it’s many hidden gestures. This is both a positive and a negative. On the positive, it simplifies and cleans up the user interface as there are less onscreen buttons and commands required. On the negative, I’ve probably forgotten most of them already as there was a lot to take in (did you know our short term memories can only hold around 5-9 items for 15-30 seconds unless they’re repeated?).
The setup process teased me with the face recognition, iris scanner and fingerprint scanner as security measures, but it skipped the actual setup process of these which was odd. I had to go back into them afterwards and they are impressive! I’ve now setup all three but am currently using the face recognition. You do have to press the hardware key first to wake up the phone but then the process of scanning your face is almost instant. In the past, Samsung have been let down by gimmicky features that didn’t actually work very well in reality, but this is reliable, quick and cool. I love it!
The edge panel is a little disappointing. It’s one swipe access to your favourite apps, contacts or editing tools, however I don’t see the benefits, when you could just put your favourite apps on your Home screen, or you could just swipe up to see all your apps. It also covers the whole screen as opposed to just popping out from the edge. It feels like a step backwards from their previous designs of the edge. On the Note, the edge was something I used all the time to access my favourite apps because it’s always onscreen. On the S8 it doesn’t have that benefit. Instead, I’ve placed my fave apps on my Home screen as it feels easier to access than dragging in the apps from the edge (which often switches panels instead of bringing out the edge, so you need to be accurate).
Bixby is amazing! I love that I can take a photo or add an image and it will find me that item online. It will even translate languages. I’m looking forward to trying this when I visit Lisbon later this month – it should make translating menus really easy!
The camera is incredible in daylight and I’m really impressed with the background blur effect that you can get (who needs an SLR when you have an S8?!). However I tried both photos and video last night and they were both a little pixelated. In fact, I’d say my Note Edge was better for night time shots. I did just have it on the default mode so this may be improved if there is a night mode – I haven’t played around too much with the settings yet.
There’s a nice hardware shortcut that I discovered to get to the camera. Let’s face it, no one really carries a camera with them anymore because your phone is your camera these days, so why is the camera app always so cumbersome to access? Samsung have solved this by a simple double press of the Power key. It means there’s no need to look at the UI (which is a struggle on a sunny day), you can keep your eyes on the subject you want to photograph whilst you’re taking your mobile out and turning on the camera. THIS IS GREAT USER EXPERIENCE!
There’s so much more I could say but I’ll save that for another post once I’ve settled in with the S8 and used it a bit more.
So far, I’m really impressed. Sleek, high quality hardware and impressive features. It feels futuristic and I can’t wait to see what else it can do!
Is there anything you want to know or see of the S8?
This week I’ve once again been conducting and overseeing an international user research project, so I thought I’d share with you my top tips for finding trusted research partners, managing and conducting international research projects.
Finding a trusted partner
When it comes to conducting user research in another country, your biggest challenge will be finding an agency you can trust to:
Be there for you when you need them.
Communicate well enough in your language that nothing is lost in translation.
Have good project management in place.
Find good quality participants/users.
Provide a good quality technical setup.
Conduct user testing well (many aren’t used to this).
Not rip you off.
Beware of time zone differences
With any agency you use, it’s important they are there for you when you need them. If you send them a message about a project, you will need to take into consideration the differences in time zones as it can cause delay to your projects.
I’ve recently been working with an agency in New York and on another project with Mexico, so have had to be flexible with my hours, working into the late evenings for calls and emails. I also have to bear in mind that when I want something the next morning, I’ll have to wait until 2pm at the earliest to receive a reply.
Good communication is crucial
You’ll need to check both their written and verbal ability to speak your language. It’s no point them conducting great research, if they can’t communicate the results well in the report or presentation. For example, I find that people in some Asian countries write English very well but it’s more difficult to understand their spoken English especially as we’re often communicating over the phone/internet so the line isn’t always very clear.
Project management needs to be awesome
Leading on from communication, their project management needs to be really tight. How are they getting on with their recruitment? When are they seeing their first user? How did the first interview go? Do they have any concerns? You shouldn’t need to chase them too much, a good partner will be pro-active in letting you know where they’re up to and any potential issues in the project.
Finding good quality participants
It can be difficult enough finding a good user recruitment agency in your own country, nevermind one in a different country where you don’t speak the same native language or know the culture. You’ll need to feel certain the agency can recruit your user types and do it in the time they state. Trust your gut feeling and beware of costs that appear too low as they may be using methods that are easier for them but attract lower quality participants.
Always ask for a sample of a previous research video, to check the moderator or agency’s previous recording quality. Check the video and audio quality, especially where devices and screens are involved. You’ll also need to check that they have the equipment and software to test mobile devices.
Can the agency conduct user testing?
This is something you’ll need to check. If they say they do user testing, you’ll also need to check to confirm they’re telling the truth – many market research agencies have added this on to their list of services without any experience. It doesn’t necessarily stop me from using them – it depends on the project and I may decide to spend a little time training them over Skype if, for example, the website testing is a smaller part of the research hour.
Are they ripping you off?
I’ve certainly experienced receiving a quote from a research agency or a recruitment agency in another country that I knew was far too high. Watch out for agencies who see you’re from (the UK in my case) and hike their prices up. If I feel they’re way too high and they’re taking the mick, I’ll simply go to another agency. If I feel they’re slightly too high I’ll address it directly with them to see if they’ll come down. Remember, for some countries, negotiating and haggling prices is expected.
Add additional translation time
Translation is one of those activities that takes far longer than you expect. If you’re getting a translator in your own country to translate research conducted in another language, make sure you give yourself plenty of time, then add some more as a buffer!
I’ve had a fantastic time this week working with Smyths Toys to improve their future e-commerce website.
As part of improving your customer experience and online conversion, it’s crucial to involve user research / user testing. If you’re job title includes the two letters ‘U’ and ‘X’ but you’re not including real life users in the design process, then you’re kidding yourself, you are not a UX designer, you’re just a designer. But don’t worry, you don’t need to do the research yourself, it might be another member of your team or even an external agency, but it’s so crucial to your understanding of your customers, how they think and how they behave that without research, it’s unlikely the experiences you design will be as successful because the more you get to know your users, the better fit your designs have to their needs and the more you’ll be able to influence their behaviour.
Smyths Toys have been working to improve their e-commerce website, particularly their mobile experience. They recognise the importance of listening to their customers, watching how they interact with their website and making design changes to be more in line with customer needs in the online environment. Of course, they’re aware that the more they do this, the more customers will enjoy using their site, they’ll be more likely to transact with them as opposed to a competitor, they’re likely to increase their basket size, return to buy again in the future, recommend the website to friends and family and shop in-store.
Here’s what the team had to say:
It’s important for us to get feedback from test candidates to see if we’re on the right track and we certainly spotted some things that we need to work on in the future and the team here helped us to identify those little issues and gave good recommendations on how to improve those for the future. And that’s what we’re going to do now… go back home, work on it and come back to do another session to evaluate that we’ve done the right changes.
As someone who has worked both client and agency side, I can tell you that I’ve found it very difficult finding good participant / user recruitment agencies. The country where I’ve had the most issues has been the UK and I believe this may be because of the recent explosion and in cases exploitation of ‘UX’. Companies who traditionally recruit participants for market research, have added UX, usability testing, user research recruitment to their list of services without making any changes to how they approach the recruitment.
My nightmare experience…
One experience that I remember very well (because the recruitment was an absolute nightmare!) was a project that my agency Keep It Usable was conducting for a global retailer. This was several years ago, when we used specialist recruitment agencies to find our participants for us. We had done everything for them to prep, including writing the screener, so all they had to do was promote it and screen people to find our users. It was a very niche user group (roughly about 3% of the population) so we made sure to give them plenty of time to recruit (about 5 weeks) and they were certain there would be no issues.
You can probably guess what happened next… with one week to go they told me they had found it impossible to recruit even one person for me! One week! With such a niche user group and only a week to go, no other agency would take the recruitment so we had no other option but to bite the bullet and pull out all the stops to try and recruit users ourselves. We did it! It wasn’t easy but we managed to do in one week what an experienced recruitment agency couldn’t do at all.
I guess this was the starting point for me in not trusting participant recruitment agencies. I’m very conscientious about the work we do (in fact in my school reports the word conscientious cropped up all the time), and the reputation of our work was potentially at risk if this happened again.
4 weeks notice…. really???
Another problem I had with agencies was that they needed at least 4 weeks notice which is just ridiculous in the world of UX. 4 weeks notice is a real luxury that us UXers just don’t have.
We’re iterative! We’re lean! We do things fast!
Not being afraid to innovate and pioneer, we decided that if no one did UX recruitment up to our standards and the needs of us as UXers, then we’d just go ahead and create an agency that did! We’ve been testing and refining our recruitment methods over the past 2 years and after many happy clients, we’re now opening up the best user recruitment experience to you too.
I hope you like the name 🙂 I Need Users is a specialist user recruitment agency for UX research. Founded by and run by UX experts, who totally understand your needs and the research you do.
Bonus….there’s a loyalty scheme too!
Why shouldn’t you be rewarded for your investment into improving user experiences? My original motivation for getting into UX was to make the world an easier, less frustrating place to live in through our everyday interactions. So, to encourage you to invest in your UX and improve your experiences (as well as of course your conversion), every time you buy user recruitment through I Need Users, you’ll receive loyalty points that can be swapped for fantastic rewards!