Inspirational Presentation – Debrief

Cookies. Sexy, sexy cookies.

As part of a module which I’m enrolled on, I’m presenting one of the topics which I’ve discussed on my blog which most captivated my attention. Although I found researching all of the topics of my blog posts to be interesting, I found the one which concerned our limited ability to exert self control to be the most interesting. So the presentation which I wrote was on that. The content of the presentation closely follows that of the blog post. The presentation can be found here.

The references used in this presentation are shown below.

Baumeister, R. F., & Heatherton, T. F. (1996). Self-regulation failure: An overview. Psychological Inquiry, 7(1), 1-15. doi:10.1207/s15327965pli0701_1

Baumeister, R. F., Bratslavsky, E., Muraven, M., & Tice, D. M. (1998). Ego depletion: Is the active self a limited resource? Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 74(5), 1252-1265. doi:10.1037/0022-3514.74.5.1252

Dahm, T., Neshat-Doost, H. T., Golden, A., Horn, E., Hagger, M., & Dalgleish, T. (2011). Age shall not weary us: Deleterious effects of self-regulation depletion are specific to younger adults. PLoS ONE, 6(10), 1-4. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0026351

Gailliot, M. T., Baumeister, R. F., DeWall, C. N., Maner, J. K., Plant, E. A., Tice, D. M., . . . Schmeichel, B. J. (2007). Self-control relies on glucose as a limited energy source: Willpower is more than a metaphor. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 92(2), 325-336. doi:10.1037/0022-3514.92.2.325

Hagger, M. S., Wood, C., Stiff, C., & Chatzisarantis, N. L. (2010). Ego depletion and the strength model of self-control: A meta-analysis. Psychological Bulletin, 136(4), 495-525. doi:10.1037/a0019486

Heatherton, T. F., & Wagner, D. D. (2011). Cognitive neuroscience of self-regulation failure. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 15(3), 132-139. doi:10.1016/j.tics.2010.12.005

Job, V., Dweck, C. S., & Walton, G. M. (2010). Ego depletion – is it all in your head? Implicit theories about willpower affect self-regulation. Psychological Science, 21(11), 1686-1693. doi:10.1177/0956797610384745

Job, V., Walton, G. M., Bernecker, K., & Dweck, C. S. (2013). Beliefs about willpower determine the impact of glucose on self-control. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 110(37), 14837-14842. doi:10.1073/pnas.1313475110

Muraven, M., & Baumeister, R. F. (2000). Self-regulation and depletion of limited resources: Does self-control resemble a muscle? Psychological Bulletin, 126(2), 247-259. doi:I0.I037//0033-2909.126.2.24

Muraven, M., Gagne, M., & Rosman, H. (2008). Helpful self-control: Autonomy Support, Vitality, and Depletion. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 44(3), 573-585. doi:10.1016/j.jesp.2007.10.008

Sowell, E. R., Thompson, P. M., Holmes, C. J., Jernigan, T. L., & Toga, A. W. (1999). In vivo evidence for post-adolescent brain maturation in frontal and striatal regions. Nature Neuroscience, 2(10), 859-861. Retrieved from

Tice, D. M., Baumeister, R. F., Shmueli, D., & Muraven, M. (2007). Restoring the self: Positive affect helps improve self-regulation following ego depletion. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 43(3), 379-384. doi:10.1016/j.jesp.2006.05.007

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Are Retailers Silently Creeping Into Your Mind and Stealing all of Your Money?

Recently, I had finished shopping and was waiting for someone else to grab a few things. And, quite unusually, I had a chance to appreciate the assault on my senses which was occurring. The smell of bread caught my attention first. Then the sounds of people and some subpar music. And then the colour, lighting and overall warmth of the place.

The supermarket equivalent of the petrol station smell.

But why hadn’t I noticed any of this before? And does any of this really matter? Does it influence us in any way? At least for me, I found music to be the most interesting aspect of design in stores – just because most retailers appear to utilise it so badly. In light of this, let’s primarily talk about auditory atmospherics.

What are Atmospherics?

Atmospherics was a term coined by Kotler (1973) who defined it as the deliberate “designing of space” to elicit “specific emotional effects” which enhance the probability of purchase (p. 50).

Most retailers are just trying to make us happier. How nice of them.

From a purely marketing perspective, atmospheric elements serve as tangible cues which silently communicate the positioning which a company is attempting to occupy in the market (Kotler, 1973Kotler, 2003, p. 576; Kotler, Wong, Saunders, & Armstrong, 2005, p. 738; Fisk, Grove, & John, 2007). By manipulating atmospherics, marketers can “create or reinforce the buyers’ leanings toward product purchase” within their establishment (Kotler, 2003, p. 576).

Are Atmospherics Important?

Somewhat unsurprisingly, Donovan, Rossiter, Marcoolyn, and Nesdale (1994) found that consumers who felt more pleasure inside a store spent more money, and time, inside it. Immediately, it’s apparent that atmospherics can have a real impact on the bottom line of a business. This isn’t wishy washy nonsense.

Utilize atmospherics correctly, and you’ll be able to make a suit out of money.

The Sound of an Empty Pocket

Chebat, Chebat, and Vaillant (2001) have found that when the tempo of music was slow, the cognitive activity of consumers increased. Interestingly, North, Hargreaves, and McKendrick (1997) also found that when all things were equal and they played German music, sales of German wine significantly increased compared to French wine. When they played French music, the opposite results were found. While we’re talking about Wine, recent research by North (2012) subsequently found that people “perceive the taste of the wine in a manner consistent with the connotations of the music” (p. 298).

Next time you don’t like your wine, just change the music.

This is consistent with a review of the literature conducted by Spence and Shankar (2010) who highlighted that auditory atmospherics influence consumption rates (and amount), preferences and even how we perceive the flavour of something. This stuff is truly unbelievable.

Furthermore, three studies have shown that playing classical music in the background influences consumers to spend more money in wine stores (Areni & Kim, 1993), student cafeterias (North & Hargreaves, 1998) and restaurants (North, Shilcock, & Hargreaves, 2003).

This guy looks like an intense classical music conductor.

And it gets better. Seo and Hummel (2011) found that when participants were subjected to unpleasant sounds before/during the presentation of an odour (which was awesome or disgusting), the hedonic value of the sound (negative) was transferred to the odour – regardless of whether the odour was pleasant or unpleasant.

Is there no end to this madness?

Scientific Underpinning

Considering that the implicit system can process approximately 11 million bits of information per second (Barden, 2013, p. 14), but the explicit system can only process about 40-50 bits per second (due to the limitations of working memory), it is unsurprising that atmospherics have been found influence us without our conscious awareness  (North, Hargreaves, & McKendrick, 1997).

We’re, seemingly, aware of nearly everything which is going on around us. But as you’re walking around a supermarket, you’re completely enthralled in the task at hand (most of the time). You don’t get a chance to notice everything around you. Not unless a stimuli in the environment is particularly salient and grabs your attention through a bottom-up approach is it ever going to enter your conscious awareness (i.e., ‘system 2’ or the explicit system).


It goes without saying that this research has gigantic implications for retailers. However, the importance of atmospherics definitely doesn’t stop there.

How about at work? More windows and some classical music could make a stupid amount of difference.

If you live in Wales, more windows might be worse.

Companies also use atmospherics to encourage creativity or ‘outside the box that doesn’t exist’ thinking.

There should seriously be a slide option whenever you have to go down some stairs.

I’ve also noticed that gyms tend to focus on pumping out fast paced music to energise and engage people in there.

She doesn’t look energised enough! Increase the beat!

And if we get a little crazy, what about in video games? In a game like Halo, the game is designed with the obvious intent to maximise enjoyment. Everything they do, from the music they use to visual design of the environments, is directed towards accomplishing this.

Computer games offer some of the best (and easily accessible) examples of superb atmospheric design.

The same can quite obviously be applied to movies and TV shows.


Closing Thoughts

This topic is massive. There’s so much more that could be said, but it’s just overwhelming. Without a doubt though, it is clear that atmospherics have an unmistakable influence on us. I don’t think I really appreciated how much until I wrote this post. The best thing is that the principles of atmospheric design apply as much to the virtual world as they do to the physical. I’d probably peg this as one of the most interesting topics which I’ve researched, and one of my favourites.

Badass level: Infinity.

Thanks very much for reading!

And for those of you that have stuck around and read these posts over the last 3 months…

You can’t disagree with a winking dog.

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Why are we Obsessed With Seeing the Downside of Everything?

Why is nearly everything which the news reports spun negatively? Why can we more easily recall a bad lecturer than all the amazing ones which we’ve had over the years? And when you’re receiving feedback for something, why does that one ‘point for improvement’ stand out among all the things you’ve probably done right? Just think back to the last time you were asked to identify your strengths. You probably had trouble identifying more than a dozen. But if I asked you to identify all of your weaknesses, I bet you’d be able to jot down more than a full page.

Where’s all the good news gone?

Drowning in Pessimism

So why is this the case? Apparently, it’s because we have a negativity bias. Essentially, this means that things which are negative attract more of our attention than positive things do (Smith, Cacioppo, Larsen, & Chartrand, 2003) and cause “strong and rapid physiological, cognitive, emotional and social responses” (Taylor, 1991, p. 67). Thus, even though you might have just cooked the most spectacular rice pudding of your entire life, that one thing that isn’t quite right will stand out a lot more than everything which went right with it.

But let’s look a little deeper than this…

Behind the Scenes

In research by Kensinger, Garoff-Eaton, and Schacter (2006), it was shown that negative images can increase the likelihood that visual details are remembered about an object. This is supported by Kensinger (2007). Furthermore, the memories we have about negative events/information also tend to be more enduring and difficult to change (Kanouse, 1984). This could be because negative information which we encounter is  “processed more thoroughly than good” (Baumeister, Bratslavsky, Finkenauer, & Vohs, 2001, p. 323).

Furthermore, when Cacioppo, Gardner, and Berntson, (1997) looked at brain activity, they found that there is more brain activity when people see negative stimuli compared with positive stimuli. More specifically, Kensinger (2007) details how the amygdala and orbitofrontal cortex are engaged when negative items are seen or remembered.  Previous research by LeDoux (1995) has highlighted that the amygdala can quickly process negative information in the environment.

Interestingly, in an ERP study by Dong, Zhou, Zhao, and Lu (2011) the researchers found that the negativity bias can influence our decision making even when an emotion has not been elicited. That’s how attentive we are to negative information in our environment. It’s quite insane.

Previous findings by Fiske (1980) and Maheswaran and Meyers-Levy (1990) have also highlighted that people believe that negative information contains more informational value than positive information.

Jumping Back in Time

But why do we have a negativity bias? Cacioppo, Gardner, and Berntson (1997) put forward that it is the result of natural selection, as the consequences of negative experiences (e.g., being bitten by a giant snake) would have been more impactful than those which were the result of positive experiences. This is supported by Smith, Cacioppo, Larsen, and Chartrand (2003) who postulate that our ancestors evolved to rapidly differentiate between positive and negative stimuli. The majority of the academic literature agrees with this explanation of why we have developed a negativity bias.

Flipping the Burger Over

On the bright side, Charles, Mather, and Carstensen (2003) have found that recall and recognition of negative stimuli decreases as people age. So there’s that I suppose!

Look how insanely happy they are!

And according to Baumeister, Bratslavsky, Finkenauer, and Vohs (2001), we can overcome the psychological impact of something which is negative with five positive things. This applies to most situations. More on this in the next section.


In the consumer environment, an exploitation of the negativity bias which comes to my mind is comparative selling. They’ll drag you towards (or keep you interested in) the higher margin products by emphasizing the negative points about other products. You’ll see this in comparison adverts as well.

Yeah right.

Of course, many adverts also exploit the negativity bias to catch attention and improve recall. Here’s an anti-smoking one:

Powerful stuff.

And here is an advert against drinking and driving:

And if you feel like shedding some tears, why not check out this one out:

Moving away from that seriously nasty content…In intimate relationships, the negativity bias also shows its ugly head. It’s advisable to make sure that for every bad thing you say or do, you put five more positive feelings or interaction back into the relationship to restore equilibrium.

Closing Thoughts

Despite how vulnerable the negativity bias might make you feel, it’s a good thing. Through natural selection, we obviously kept it for a good reason. And although you could argue that it has reduced importance today, I disagree. At least for me, I feel like it helps me to improve myself. If negative feedback didn’t have that sting to it, I don’t think that I would be as motivated to improve upon what I already am.

See the positive in the negative.

Thanks for reading!

This badass approves this post.


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Losing Control and Tripping Over Yourself.

Every time a new year rolls around, my ears bleed. Everyone lists off all the things they’re giving up or going to do, and how they’re going to realise their idealised version of their self. I’ve seen some people stick to the promises which they make themselves, but a lot of them fall over themselves and land face first in a pile of cake. But why does it have to be this way? What makes people fail?

Some common New Year's Resolutions.

Some common New Year’s Resolutions.

Ego Depletion

According to this research and this overview of the literature, our ability to resist temptations and control ourselves depends on a limited resource which we all possess (which is likened to a muscle by some authors). Their experiments also showed that every time that we exercise self-control, we reduce the amount of this resource which is available to us. The authors of this research termed this effect ‘ego depletion’.

Research which followed has expanded upon these findings. This research has found that glucose is the limited energy source which determines our ability to exert self-control. Thus, blood glucose levels are reduced when we have to control ourselves – which impairs subsequent attempts to control ourselves.

Cookies have glucose in right? So by eating cookies, I can stop myself from eating cookies. That makes so much sense.

Behind the Scenes

This review has highlighted that exerting self-control is determined by the ability of our prefrontal cortex (which is usually associated with deliberate and conscious control) to supress subcortical regions (such as the amygdala) which are involved in reward and emotion. When we fail to exercise self-control, it is because the prefrontal cortex has been overpowered. This happens because there is either:

  • Increased activation in subcortical regions due to potency of rewards (e.g., cue reactivity).


  • Reduced ability of prefrontal cortex (e.g., negative moods, glucose depletion).

Another study has also implicated the anterior cingulate in this mess. This means that when people are glucose depleted, they have trouble fending off more temptations because “their neutrally based conflict-monitoring/error-detection system has reduced their ability to monitor losses of control” (p. 937).

On the Flipside

According to this and this, if we’re inflicted by ego-depletion, the easiest way to counteract it is try and put yourself into a good mood. Doing so seems to refill your psychological reserves. Additionally, this research showed that people who are intrinsically motivated can resist more temptations than those who are extrinsically motivated.

Recent evidence has also added another dimension to all of this. In this research, the authors showed that the performance of people who believed that willpower was not limited did not decrease following demanding tasks. Similar findings have previously been found (see here).

This research made me think of this exchange of words.

This research made me think of this exchange of words.

And to top it all off, recent research has raised doubts over everything which I’ve outlined. This is because the prefrontal regions of the brain don’t fully develop until people are about 25. But academic research predominantly uses participants who are under this age. So, when researchers tested whether this had an effect, they found that people who are older do not suffer from ego depletion effects.

Personally, I’d like to see more research which looks into the effect which beliefs and age have on the predictability of ego depletion. However, they are interesting – and turn this whole topic on its head. Anecdotally, I reckon that most adults I know are influenced by ego depletion (whatever their age).


Here are two of the most salient ways that illustrate the effect which ego-depletion can have.

Application #1: Diets and Exercise

What is that guy trying to do?

This is one of those New Year’s resolutions which you hear a lot. But, because people don’t understand their fallibility, they trip up. They probably start the day pretty well, pass up the doughnut which their co-worker offers them, and have some pathetic salad which tastes like rubbish for lunch. But by the time the evening comes along, they’re given into their desire for a gigantic mixed kebab with garlic mayo. And they’ve skipped the gym.

And who can blame them? They were (almost) bound to fail with that kind of setup. And, I’m sorry to say, but gyms are incentivised to encourage you to fail. This article suggests that about four out of five people stop going to the gym within two months of committing to after New Year’s. And gyms love this, as you’re usually locked into some ridiculous 12 month contract which costs you over £30 a month.

Application #2: Procrastination Opportunities

That’s a dangerous amount of apps. Always tempting you away from what you should be doing.

A lot of people have smart phones. Or maybe we should call them ‘procrastination enablers’. Facebook, Reddit, Angry Birds and whatever else are a few taps away. It’s never been so easy to give in and procrastinate. Especially, I’ve noticed, during lectures. Just knowing it’s there, ready to take you away seems to be just too much for some people. But maybe they don’t want to be there? Maybe forcing themselves to be in that lecture is just too much. And because of that, they can’t help but procrastinate.


I hope you found this post as interesting as it was to research it. If you want to read up more, have a look at Dan Ariely’s post. This post is also pretty interesting and cites research which I didn’t put in to this post.


Thanks for reading!

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Bitcoins, the Hindsight Bias and Omniscient Unicorns

What's all the hype about?

Recently, there’s been a massive surge in coverage in the media about a new, revolutionary, digital currency called ‘bitcoins’. This is because governments, like the U.S. Congress, are starting to think about the threats and opportunities that this new currency could provide. It’s also because the value of bitcoins, relative to other currencies, has seen a staggering increase (as can be seen below).

The Market Price of Bitcoins

If you’re interested in finding out what Bitcoins are all about, check out this video, this page and this wonderful plain English explanation of what Bitcoin mining is all about.

On hubs such as Reddit, I’ve seen a lot of posts which claim that this recent increase in the value of bitcoins was predictable. That they saw this coming and should have jumped in when it was cheap and made some easy money. But that’s unicorn excrement. If people truly knew this, then they would be millionaires. So what’s going on? Why do people believe that, in hindsight, they knew it all along? Are they lying or just deluding themselves?

Are People Omniscient Unicorns?

Can people see into the future?!

It turns out that all those people that think that they knew it all along are simply being afflicted by something known as the hindsight bias (Fischhoff, 1975Fischhoff & Beyth, 1975Fischhoff, 1977Roese & Vohs, 2012). This is defined as the tendency for people to “believe than an event is more predictable after it becomes known than it was before it became known” (Roese & Vohs, 2012, p. 411). Because of this bias, people show an overconfidence in their ability to predict events which have already happened (Fischhoff & Beyth, 1975).

Why Does This Happen?                         

Check out the figure which is shown below.

This tells us some interesting things. Firstly, there are three levels (or different sorts) of hindsight bias (Blank, Nestler, von Collani, & Fischer, 2008; Nestler, Blank, & Egloff, 2010), which are each influenced by different inputs (or mechanisms). Let’s briefly look at each type of hindsight bias.

Memory Distortion

This makes it seem a lot more dramatic than it really is.

This is simply where a person fails to recall correctly what they previously thought to be true. This can be due to:

  • Their inability to recall predictions and thoughts that they previously had. So instead of recalling what they thought to be true, they just recall what they know to be true.


  • Their integration of new knowledge into their beautiful, remarkable, leprechaun memory system. The awesome thing is that the outcome of whatever happens strengthens congruent memories which a person already holds. But any information which is incongruent just sits quietly in the corner like an unwanted kitten on Christmas morning. This strengthening of existing memories makes us feel confident that we knew what would happen before it did. Studies by Louie (2005) and Carli (1999) have shown the impact that this type of hindsight bias can have.


Time to get all matrix on you.

This is when people believe that something had to happen due to the circumstances. This type of hindsight bias is driven by our “tendency to oversimplify cause and effect” (Roese & Vohs, 2012, p. 414) and neglect the randomness of our beautifully crazy world (which is referred to in the literature as ‘sensemaking’).


This type of hindsight bias kicks in when people personally believe that they foresaw what the outcome of an event would be. This level of hindsight bias is driven by our desire for closure and maintenance of our self-esteem. If we refer back to the hierarchy of needs by the greatest of all our friends (Abraham Maslow), we can see why people would fall prey to this type of hindsight bias. By stewing in the grease of hindsight bias, people can maintain their confidence and the respect they enjoy from others for their supposed expertise. They can also keep their jobs – a critical component of the safety level of this hierarchy.

Gotta love a lil’ bit of Maslow.

Clearly, we are motivated to implicitly delude ourselves. It just makes us feel like a Panda sitting under his favourite tree with the most delicious bamboo stick. And who doesn’t want to transform into a Panda?

Pandas are awesome.


When your head is in the clouds, the only way is down.

While deluding yourself is tempting, you should think twice. The main two consequences of the hindsight bias are myopia and overconfidence. And the worse thing about this is that it completely inhibits self-development of any kind. You never grow. You remain the same boring, uninformed, and delusional person that you were yesterday. As a result, you’re never going to reach the peak of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs – self-actualization.


The hindsight bias is a corruption of our decision making ability in general, and affects countless domains. For instance, a misdiagnosis by one doctor could be considered gross negligence by another in hindsight – even if it wasn’t.

And what about those horrible times when you recently bought something for full price, only to see it on sale the next day? You obviously knew that was going to happen, didn’t you?

Now think about a recent sports match. Did the underdog come out on top? And yet, you predicted that didn’t you? No one else did, but you knew! You magical unicorn.


Thanks for reading!

Casual endorsement of Pepsi right there.

See you soon!

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Copycats and Representativeness

Have you noticed how some of the own-brand products available from retailers have packaging which resembles the leading brands? Recently, research by Which (2013) has found that there are over 150 imitation products (labelled as ‘copycats’ by marketers) in the marketplace. Why would retailers bother to do something like this?

Why do retailers make their products look so similar to the leading brands?

The purpose of this post is to answer that question. In order to do so, I am going to focus a significant portion of the post on a discussion of the representativeness heuristic.


What is the Representativeness Heuristic?

Kahneman and Tversky (1972) were the first to define and explore the bias which representativeness can have on our predictive ability. Essentially, this heuristic refers to the tendency of people to make predictions concerning a target depending on the target’s similarity to a category (Kahneman & Tversky, 1972, p. 431; Kardes, Cline, & Cronley, 2011, p. 108). Importantly, the higher the representativeness of a target to a category, the more likely we expect our predictions to be (Kahneman & Tversky, 1973).

To fully understand this heuristic, it is useful to consider how people are usually categorized (or stereotyped) according to the basic information which we receive about them. For example, consider the person shown below.

At least he has a good beard.

For some people, this person closely represents the schema of someone that is geeky. Thus, because the similarity between the person and the category is high, we consider the likelihood that our prediction is correct to be high.

The Upside of Representativeness

But it’s not all doom and gloom. We utilize the representativeness heuristic because the predictions which its use produces are usually “more accurate than chance guesses would be” (Kahneman, 2012, p.151). In other words, the stereotypes which we used to classify the guy (shown above) as geeky are usually right. From previous experience, it’s just more likely that he prefers a long game of chess and avoids engaging in sports.

Why is any of this Important?

Therefore,  the reason why a number of the large retailers are imitating the packaging of successful brands is that they believe – or hope – that our positive perceptions of leading brands will be transferred to the copycat products if they are visually similar to one another. Essentially, using such a strategy is a simple and effective method by which to adopt the characteristics of a leading brand in a particular category.

For example, let’s look at ‘Choco Rice’ (shown below). It’s laughable to believe that they can get away with being so similar to ‘Coco Pops’ in appearance. But that’s besides the point. Because they are so similar, you can’t help but think about Coco Pops when you look at them. And by the magic of the representativeness heuristic, the connections that you have when you think of Coco Pops (e.g., insanely tasty, high quality, the ultimate nutritious meal in the world, etc.,) are connected to Choco Rice.

Copycat product: Choco Rice and Coco Pops

How do they get away with this?

Surely this isn’t the case though? We’re not that easily, and obviously, manipulated…are we? I’m afraid to say, you probably are – without being fully aware of it. The representativeness  heurstic works ‘under the hood’ via intuitive processing. Under the assumptions outlined in dual process theory, this means that things which happen using this type of processing are leave us with “no sense of voluntary control” (Kahneman, 2012, p. 105).

Closing Thoughts

In summary, people tend to focus on one aspect of similarity which product A has with product B and then assume – by the magic of intuitive processing and the representativeness heuristic – that product A also has the other characteristics of product B (e.g., higher quality, healthy, etc.,).

For consumers, being aware of this heuristic is the first step towards defeating it. Kahneman (2012, p. 153) noted that the representativeness heuristic has such an impact on our predictive ability due to our conscious ignorance or laziness. However, the latter of these two is the main reason. But as previously mentioned, we let ourselves become lazy because our intuitive system does a reasonably good job of making predictions – without inputting much effort.

The representativeness heuristic is utilized because it just makes our lives easier – but maybe not better.

However, it’s worth mentioning that top brands are continuously putting pressure on law makers to extend the provisions of intellectual property rights in the UK. According to them, copycat packaging is a deliberate attempt to mislead (, 2013). And to be honest, they may be right. Going back to research conducted by Which (2013), one-fifth of their members had mistakenly bought an own-label product. Misleading customers in such a way is going to lead a sour taste. So despite the effectiveness of using such copycat techniques, it may be an ineffective long term strategy for marketers to pursue.

Personally, I’m torn as to whether it’s a big deal or not. If customers make a mistake or not, that’s their fault. At the same time, some of the copycat products which I’ve found during my research for this blog post are borderline identical in appearance to the leading brands. When it gets to that stage of imitation, I think a line has to be drawn.

Here are some of the most stupidly similar copycat products which I found in my journey through the Internet:

Thanks for reading!


Kahneman, D. (2012). Thinking, fast and slow. London: Penguin Books.

Kahneman, D., & Tversky, A. (1972). Subjective probability: A judgement of representativeness. Cognitive Psychology, 3(3), 430-454. doi:10.1016/0010-0285(72)90016-3

Kahneman, D., & Tversky, A. (1973). On the psychology of prediction. Psychological Review, 80(4), 237-251. doi:10.1037/h0034747

Kardes, F. R., Cline, T. W., & Cronley, M. L. (2011). Consumer behavior: Science and practice. Mason, OH/US: South-Western Cengage Learning.

Marketing Magazine. (2013, April 10). Why the cold war over ‘copycat’ branding may be set to heat up. Retrieved from Marketing Magazine:

Which. (2013, April 12). Own-label ‘copycat’ products: can you spot the difference? Retrieved from Which:

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Drowning in Regret

In my first post on this blog, I discussed how we can become crippled by possibility. Increasing the range of real or imagined options seemingly results in higher levels of inaction amongst customers. But, in an effort to provide a concise summary of the problem, I missed out – what I believe – to be the underlying ‘thing’ which explains choice paralysis.

That underlying ‘thing’ is a feeling called regret.

Ice cream choices

Is this heaven or hell?

Thus, in this post I am endeavouring to provide a deeper and more elaborate perspective as to why choice paralysis occurs. So even if you read my previous post, this post should still be a valuable addition which is worth throwing into your brain.


What is a Regret?

Regret is a “painful” negative emotional state where we feel “sorry for misfortunes, limitations, losses, transgressions, shortcomings, or mistakes” (Landman, 1993, p. 36). Oddly, “judgement is more central” to the feeling or regret than other emotions which we feel (Gilovich & Medvec, 1995, p. 379). Furthermore, there are two types of regret which we can experience. These are:

  • Anticipated Regret: This occurs during the ‘alternative evaluation’ stage of the decision making process (Kardes, Cline, & Cronley, 2011, p. 71). The term refers to beliefs about possible regret that may be felt depending on whether an action is or is not taken (Abraham & Sheeran, 2003).
  • Postdecision Regret: Also known as ‘buyer’s remorse’. This is regret which occurs during the post-purchase evaluation stage of the consumer decision making process (Kardes, Cline, & Cronley, 2011, p. 71).

Incentivised Inaction

According to previous findings (Kahneman & Tversky, 1982; Landman, 1987), we feel greater regret – in the short term – when we experience negative outcomes that are the result of an action, rather than an inaction. In other words, when deciding between options becomes difficult, we decide not to act at all because of the salience of the regret which is felt.

Do nothing.

When faced with the possibility of too much regret, some of us may defer the decision to the future.

Experiments by Shin and Ariely (2004) have similarly shown that when we can’t make a decision, we tend towards maintaining the options which are available to us. This is described by the authors as simply being the result of an “aversion to loss” (p. 575). However, these authors overlooked that our aversion towards the feeling of regret may be the true driving force behind our tendency towards loss aversion (Zeelenberg, Beattie, Van der Pligt, & de Vries, 1996).

To summarise this section: our feelings of anticipated and postdecision regret are critical to the decision making process undertaken by customers and consumers.

Case: Buying a TV

So let’s imagine that you’re in the market for a new TV. You’ve looked over all the reviews, compared the prices and tried to find out whose doing the best deals for what. And let’s suppose, by some random alligning of jupiter’s moons, that you’ve cut down your choice to five TVs.

But as you review the options, the opportunity costs (i.e., the value of alternatives which must be given in order to pursue a particular path) of purchasing one of these leads you to feel regret for those features which you are forgoing. You might just decide that you can’t deal with the anticipated guilt and decide not to act. Who needs a new TV anyway?

Or you might make a decision and choose a sparkling new TV (which you consider to the best option). But in the end, imagining all the opportunity costs in advance of making the decision just makes the option that you choose ‘feel’ less attractive. So even when you make the best decision, anticipated regret picks up a hammer and smashes your enthusiasm for the option you’ve chosen (Schwartz, 2005, pp. 154-156).

Closing Thoughts

So what can we do about this? One of the numerous suggestions outlined by Schwartz (2005) is to “satisfice more and maximize less” (p. 225). Put simply, satisficers look for “something that is good enough” (Schwartz, et al., 2002, p. 1179). But a maximizer cannot do this. They are driven to make the best possible choice. Thus, more choice leads to more opportunity costs. And more opportunity costs for the maximizer means that they’ll feel more anticipated regret.

However, Schwartz (2005) does acknowledge that you can’t act like a satisficer in all circumstances. But, the decision to act in a maximizing way has opportunity costs in of itself. Therefore, utilizing this mindset towards a decision should be an important decision in itself. For example, I consider the adoption of a maximizing stance to be beneficial at University and worth the regret that I must feel. It’s important that I choose the best option in that case. But when it comes down to the type of bread that I want to buy at the supermarket…good enough will do.

Unfortunately, I have to stop the blog post there. Sorry about that.

Feel free to ask any questions or add a contribution in the comment section.

Thanks for reading!



Abraham, C., & Sheeran, P. (2003). Acting on intentions: The role of anticipated regret. British Journal of Social Psychology, 42(4), 495-511. doi:10.1348/014466603322595248

Gilovich, T., & Medvec, V. H. (1995). The experience of regret: What, when, and why. Psychological Review, 102(2), 379-395. doi:10.1037/0033-295X.102.2.379

Kahneman, D., & Tversky, A. (1982). The psychology of preferences. Scientific American, 246(1), 160-173. doi:10.1038/scientificamerican0182-160

Kardes, F. R., Cline, T. W., & Cronley, M. L. (2011). Consumer behavior: Science and practice. Mason, OH/US: South-Western Cengage Learning.

Landman, J. (1987). Regret and elation following action and inaction: Affective Responses to Positive Versus Negative Outcomes. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 13(4), 524-536. doi:10.1177/0146167287134009

Landman, J. (1993). Regret: Persistence of the possible. New York: Oxford University Press.

Schwartz, B. (2005). The paradox of choice: Why more is less. New York, US: HarperCollins.

Schwartz, B., Ward, A., Monterosso, J., Lyubomirsky, S., White, K., & Lehman, D. R. (2002). Maximizing versus satisficing: Happiness is a matter of choice. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 83(5), 1178-1197. doi:10.1037/0022-3514.83.5.1178

Shin, J., & Ariely, D. (2004). Keeping doors open: The effect of unavailability on incentives to keep options viable. Management Science, 50(5), 575-586. doi:10.1287/mnsc.1030.0148

Zeelenberg, M., Beattie, J., Van der Pligt, J., & de Vries, N. K. (1996). Consequences of regret aversion: Effects of expected feedback on risky decision making. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 65(2), 148-158. doi:10.1006/obhd.1996.0013

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