Nobody wants to finish last. Regardless of which sphere of live you investigate, people take significant effort not to end up in the painful last position. Diners in restaurants rarely order the cheapest wine on the menu—with preferences clustering around the second cheapest option (McFadden, 1999). The pain of rejection stings most when one is picked last in gym class, whereas the person in the second-last spot breathes a sigh of relief (Weir, 2012).
But what about waiting in queues? Is waiting actually more painful for the last person in line compared to someone waiting an equal amount of time with one additional person behind him?
Through an impressive series of five studies on both in-store and simulated queuing environments, the behavioral scientist Ryan W. Buella investigated the psychological dynamics of queuing. He discovered that being the last one in line carries a powerful psychological difference that has striking consequences on our behavior and satisfaction.
For me, personally, when I’m listening to the radio in the morning and the host is telling a personal story, I find myself immersively listening and feeling empathy. However, the moment they talk about the daily news I’m just laid back casually.
The same holds true for sales pitches where the salesperson starts by telling a bit about his personal life and background before going into the material.
From self-help books to popular gurus preaching the rules of financial literacy – they all seem to have piece of advice in common: budgeting. Presumably, budgeting is the core ingredient of a healthy financial life. It just makes sense to determine in advance what you are going to buy and for what cost. But is it actually true?
If our brains would be perfectly rational, budgeting makes sense. And in many cases, budgeting tends to work in our favor. After finding out we overspend on dining out or buying new clothing, it wouldn’t hurt to set a purchase limit for the next months. Unfortunately, when we put on the goggles of a behavioral scientist and measure the intricacies of what actually happens when people set budgets, some surprisingly irrational patterns emerge.
To put it bluntly: under specific circumstances, setting prior budgets will predictably make you spend more. Period. So, let’s dive into the data on the surprising psychology behind budgeting.
Imagine that you are a retail store manager who has an oversupply of hot dogs. To boost sales, you decide to create an 'outdoor barbeque' display by placing a variety of complements (e.g. condiments, buns, napkins, plastic forks, and beer) on top of the case containing the hot dogs.
Would such a strategy be successful at attracting shoppers to view the hot dogs? If so, how should you design the display of complements to maximize shopper attention?
Would you have recognized the hit-potential of Dua Lipa before it was cool? Or Drake?
Most probably, you won’t. As you know, there’s a lot of money going round in the music industry. But the question remains how much is invested efficiently, as this can only be addressed when the song is a few weeks in the air. But what if we would have the power to predict what song will be in the charts for weeks, which everyone will be humming and thus which song is the blockbuster of the month and the cash cow of the record label?
Recent research by Unravel Research has done exactly this. But first, let’s explain the theory behind the story.