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6 Ways Your Behavior Is Being Controlled

6 Ways Your Behavior Is Being Controlled


Do you think you are in control of your decisions? If you’re like most people, the natural answer is, “Of course.  While I may regret some, I definitely decided to make them at the time.” I hate to tell you this, but odds are that you are like the rest of humanity in that your decisions are more determined by your surroundings than by you.

We are bombarded with stimuli and thousands of decisions to make every day. Starting from when we wake up, we decided when to set our alarm, when to actually move out of bed, what to put on, what to eat… the list is nearly infinite. Even when we decide not do something, that’s also a decision. Clearly, it is more efficient for everyday actions to be put on automatic and become routines, but can some of these mental shortcuts carry over to influence bigger decisions? The answer is yes, and here are some of the most common ways how.

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1. Power of defaults, also known as the status quo bias

The default bias is a powerful psychological function. Because people tend to exhibit inertia, especially with more complex decisions, the default mode usually prevails. Whether it be the advanced settings on your laptop or iphone, a retirement savings plan, or a trade-off between reliability and rates, people overwhelmingly stick with the default, status quo, options. Some argue that as choices get more complex and people know less about the options, they don’t feel competent enough to switch from the default. However, even with basic tasks such as scrolling to the bottom of an e-mail to click “unsubscribe” to another spam e-mail, people are hesitant to take action, and thus continue to be bombarded by unwanted e-mail blasts. Think: Are you sticking with the default because its the best decision or just because it’s the easiest?

2. Forced functions

Forcing function means things are designed in a way such that people have to take certain actions in order to get what they want. Examples include having to take your card out of an ATM machine before receiving your money, having different sized medical delivery ports for different drugs, or having the car ding until you put your seat belt on. These are usually used to positively influence behavior by ensuring you do something to get the right result. Think: How can you take advantage of this? Maybe putting your phone on the other side of the room so you have to get up to turn the alarm off.

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3. N effect

In the journal paper, “The N-Effect: More Competitors, Less Competition,” authors Garcia and Tor found that when the number of competitors increases, people actually perform worse. For example, if you’re entering a race with thousands of other people, you may think there’s no chance of winning and not try as hard as if it were a race with only 50 people. Think: Next time your competing against a large group, remember most people aren’t giving their all, so if you do, you could have an extra advantage.

4. Relativity

Changing peoples’ anchor, or first piece of information, has huge effects on how they view everything else. Dan Ariely, in his book “Predictably Irrational” gives an example with the introduction of the Williams- Sonoma bread machines. When they first introduced them, people were hesitant to pay a premium for these machines; however, when they later introduced a model that was 50% more expensive, the first bread machines seemed like a bargain and sales shot up. Think: Are you actually getting a good deal or did something prior prime you to think that way?

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5. Hawthorne effect

The Hawthorne effect suggests that peoples’ productivity changes with environmental changes. While there is a bit of controversy surrounding the suggestion, the original study by Landsberger revealed that changing (whether increasing or decreasing) the lighting in a factory increased workers productivity. This could be because they felt watched when changes occurred, but despite the reason, peoples’ productivity tends to increase with environmental change and novelty. Think: How can you change your work environment in small ways to become more productive?

6. State/ Context dependent memory

Ever had a difficult time with recall? Turns out the state and context in which you learned that information is the most ideal one for recalling it. If you were drunk when you learned somebody’s name, you may have an easier time remembering it when you’re drunk again. Interestingly, but maybe not as applicable, if you learn information underwater, you’re more likely to recall it underwater, and if you learn it on land, you are more likely to recall it on land. Think: What type of environment will I need to recall this information?

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Sources:

Raymond S. Hartman, Michael J. Doane and Chi-Keung Woo. “Consumer Relation and Status Quo”
The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Vol. 106, No. 1 (Feb., 1991), pp. 141-162
Garcia, Stephen M. “The N-Effect: More Competitors, Less Competition.” Psychological Science 20.7 (2009): 871-77. JSTOR. Web. 24 Oct. 2014.
“Nudge” by Richard Thaler
“Predictably Irrational” by Dan Ariely

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Last Updated on August 6, 2020

Why Working 9 to 5 Is Outdated

Why Working 9 to 5 Is Outdated

Bristol is the most congested city in England. Whenever I have to work at the office, I ride there, like most of us do. Furthermore, I always make sure to go at off hours; otherwise, the roads are jam-packed with cars, buses, bikes, even pedestrians. Why is that? Because everyone is working a traditional 9 to 5 work day.

Where did the “9 to 5” Come From?

It all started back in 1946. The United States government implemented the 40 hour work week for all federal employees, and all companies adopted the practice afterwards. That’s 67 years with the same schedule. Let’s think about all the things that have changed in the 67 years:

  • We went to the moon, and astronauts now live in space on the ISS.

  • Computers used to take up entire rooms and took hours to make a single calculation. Now we have more powerful computers in our purses and back pockets with our smartphones.

  • Lots of employees can now telecommute to the office from hundreds, and even thousands of miles away.

In 1946 a 9-5 job made sense because we had time after 5pm for a social life, a family life. Now we’re constantly connected to other people and the office, with the Internet, email on our smartphones, and hashtags in our movies and television shows. There is no downtime anymore.

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Different Folks, Different Strokes

Enjoying your downtime is an important part of life. It recharges your batteries and lets you be more productive. Allowing people to balance life and work can provide them with much needed perspective and motivation to see the bigger picture of what they are trying to achieve.

Some people are just more productive when they’re working at their optimal time of day, after feeling well rested and personally fulfilled.  For some that can be  from 4 a.m. to 9 a.m; for others, it could be  2 p.m. to 7 p.m.

People have their own rhythms and routines. It would be great if we could sync our work schedule to match. Simply put, the imposed 8-hour work day can be a creativity and morale killer for the average person in today’s world.

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Productivity and Trust Killer

Fostering creativity among employees is not always an easy endeavor, but perhaps a good place to start is by simply not tying their tasks and goals to a fixed time period. Let them work on their to-do list at their own pace, and chances are, you’ll get the best out of your employee who feels empowered instead of babysat.

That’s not to say that you should  allow your team to run wild and do whatever they want, but restricting them to a 9 to 5 time frame can quickly demoralize people. Set parameters and deadlines, and let them work at their own creative best with the understanding that their work is crucial to the functioning of the entire team.

Margaret Heffernan, an entrepreneur who previously worked in broadcasting, noted to Inc that from her experience, “treating employees like grown-ups made it more likely that they would behave the same way.” The principle here is to have your employees work to get things done, not to just follow the hands on the clock.

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A Flexible Remote Working Policy

Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer famously recalled all her remote workers, saying she wanted to improve innovation and collaboration, but was that the right decision? We’ve all said that we’re often more productive in a half day working from home than a full day working in the office, right? So why not let your employees work remotely from home?

There are definitely varying schools of thought on remote working. Some believe that innovation and collaboration can only happen in a boardroom with markers, whiteboards and post-it notes and of course, this can be true for some. But do a few great brainstorms trump a team that feels a little less stressed and a little more free?

Those who champion remote working often note that these employees are not counting the clock, worried about getting home, cooking dinner or rushing through errands post-work. No one works their 9-5 straight without breaks here and there.  Allowing some time for remote working means employees can handle some non-work related tasks and feel more accomplished throughout the day. Also, sometimes we all need to have a taste of working in our pajamas, right?

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It’ll be interesting to see how many traditional companies and industries start giving their employees more freedom with their work schedule. And how many end up rescinding their policies like Yahoo did.

What are your thoughts of the traditional 9-5 schedule and what are you doing to help foster your team’s productivity and creativity? Hit the comments and let us know.

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