Why Random Rewards Feel So Much Better Than Earned Ones with Richard Shotton

Earning your 10th cup of coffee for free isn’t nearly as satisfying as being randomly awarded a free coffee from your barista. These uncertain rewards are a genius way of enforcing new habits, which our guest Richard Shotton outlines in his fantastic new book.

In fact, Richard’s book “The Illusion of Choice: 16 ½ psychological biases that influence what we buy” is a treasure trove of research and anecdotes which bridge the gap between the very technical world of academia and the “wild” application of behavioral science in real world marketing.

Kurt and Tim don’t delve into all 16 ½ psychological biases from the book, but their conversation with Richard jumps into some fascinating topics. Among them are the seemingly contradictory chapters in Richard’s book that are titled “Make It Easy” and “Make It Difficult”. So which is it – should we add or remove friction to products? In fact, it’s both! And (as we love to say on Behavioral Grooves) it depends on the context, and ultimately what your marketing goal is.

Be very clear about the problem you are trying to resolve as a marketer. Once you're clear about that, then it's easy to match the right behavioral science recommendation to that problem. ~ Richard Shotton, Episode 355 Share on X

We discuss the power of simple, concrete language; why we perceive precise numbers to be more accurate; and how authoritarian language can discourage customers, employees and possibly citizens.

We assume when we hear a precise number, it must be accurate. When we hear a general number, we start to doubt the communicator. ~ Richard Shotton, Episode 355 Share on X

As mentioned in the show, we were recently honored to be awarded the 2023 Behavioral Science Podcast of the Year by GAABS. Thank you to the wonderful team at GAABS, and all our listeners who made this possible, we really appreciate your ongoing support.



(5:33) Welcome and speed round question.

(7:57) Why randomly being awarded a coffee is so satisfying.

(13:00) Closing the gap between academia and applied behavioral science.

(15:12) The power of concrete over abstract words.

(20:48) Breaking prices down to unit price is perceived as better value.

(24:32) How precise pricing increases the acceptance rate.

(28:38) Why simple language is so important.

(33:40) When is it best to increase friction and when should you remove friction?

(40:44) Is there actually a replication “crisis” in behavioral science?

(42:48) Authoritarian messages could have a negative effect on customers and employees.

(47:36) What musical artists would Richard take to a desert island?

(52:20) Grooving Session with Kurt and Tim on Richard’s work.


© 2023 Behavioral Grooves


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AIRDATE: May 7, 2023 EPISODE 355

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Why Random Rewards Feel So Much Better Than Earned Ones with Richard Shotton