Friday, May 8, 2015

Those little games we play ...

It's somehow both fascinating and terrifying to read these three articles more-or-less together:

In the first article, I was fascinated by this description of how scammers manipulate your emotions to try to trick you into falling for their scheme:

Over time, we realized that scam schemes share a set of core principles that we were then able to formalize as follow:
  • A story with credible details to limit the victim suspicion.
  • Words or phrases that evoke sympathy and aim to persuade. E.g apologizing and providing distressing details such as "had a knife poking my neck for almost two minutes".
  • An appearance of limited financial risk for the plea recipient, as financial requests are typically requests for a loan with concrete promises of speedy repayment.
  • Language that discourages the plea recipient from trying to verify the story by contacting the victim through another means of communication, often through claims that the victim’s phone was stolen.
  • An untraceable, fast and hard-to-revoke yet safe-looking money transfer mechanism. The payment also needs to be picked up anywhere and somewhat anonymously as the scammers might not be from the country they claim the victim what mugged in.

The second article is just full of such wonderful ideas. I was particularly taken by this:

When people compare your price to a reference price, you can influence them to pull a lower price into that comparison.

Why would people pull a lower price into the comparison? This strategy takes advantage of our brain’s laziness for encoding numerical values. Adaval and Monroe (2002) explain that: "...price information about a product is unlikely to be coded into memory in terms of exact numerical digits but, rather, is coded spontaneously in more general magnitude terms (e.g., "low," "high"). Thus the numerical price is susceptible to the influence of its original context when people attempt to reconstruct it later." (pp. 585)

With such a hazy memory, you can influence how people recall your price. How? You just need to reframe your price into a lower numerical value. Exposing people to that lower value will cause them to encode a smaller magnitude.

And then they follow up with such classic examples as
  • Keep the Shipping and Handling separate
  • Offer payment in installments

And the last article focuses mostly on placement, which is Facebook's algorithm for deciding what appears near the top of your display, and what is hidden below.

Sure enough, it matters:

Notice how steep the curve is. The higher the link, more (a lot more) likely it will be clicked on. You live and die by placement, determined by the newsfeed algorithm.

Well, I guess there's no surprise there. After all, don't bury the lead; keep it above the fold.

(Who even reads a newspaper anymore nowadays; much less worries about how it will be folded on the train?)

Well, I guess the more things change, the more things stay the same.

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