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5 Apr 2012

People Eat Escargot, Not Snails

The idea that people eat escargot, not snails helps us make sense of many paradoxes about human behavior.

The research behind behavioral economics is full of emotional solutions to everyday problems. By tapping into the emotional biases behind our decisions, we can expand the range of limited solutions offered by rational thought models. The exploring of emotional solutions has gone big time as the article, “Nudge Nudge, Think Think” explains in the March 24, 2012 edition of The Economist by focusing on the amount of investments governments are making in this area.

Said simply, “How we phrase things matter.” I’ve written how this can change the taste of food and even change the reactions to a bonus plan. As the article explains, nudging “shows it is possible to steer people towards better decisions by presenting choices in different ways.”

For example:

  • People were three times more likely to pay an outstanding vehicular tax when the letter was simplified and included a picture of the automobile.
  • Boys did better than girls did when a technical drawing class was called “geometry,” and girls did equally well or better when it was called “drawing.”
  • People were more inclined to use less energy when their consumption was compared to their neighbors.

Not only does this help us solve problems, it also helps us avoid them by being aware of what we say so we don’t sabotage our well-intentioned plans. Choosing the right words for a personality can go a long way in helping us to effect the change we desire by tapping the right emotions.

For example, my wife won a bet at a party by talking a friend’s six-year-old daughter into selecting a vegetable over chocolate to eat. Understanding and appreciating the power behind words’ connotations helps us immensely here, and Roget’s Thesaurus is invaluable in our efforts.

Remember, people eat escargot not snails.


3 Responses

  1. Pingback : Uncertainty, Ally of the Human Spirit: A Guest Post by Mike Lehr @mikelehroza | elumn8

  2. julieafogg

    This is a sophisticated & excellent post. Framing also applies to numbers. People respond to small & large numbers. Individual personality determines whether a person is inspired or marginalized (rejects) a concept/opportunity. It’s nature & nurture, too. This makes marketing tricky & A/B testing so critical.

    1. Mike Lehr

      Thank you, Julie, for visiting and leaving your insights. Most definitely, framing applies to numbers. We can interpret them in many different ways. Yes, you’re right. Personality plays an important role in all this. ~Mike

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