Human Risk Newsletter
Hindsight Edition

Estimated Reading Time 6 mins
Welcome back to another Human Risk Newsletter containing lovingly curated Behavioural Science (BeSci) inspired content. 

Missed any of the first three editions? Indulge yourself in the archive before reading on.

Seeing this newsletter for the first time and wondering what Human Risk is? Click here for an explanation and then subscribe using the button below:
Coming up in this edition
1. A costly order-taking error in a restaurant that became a masterclass in managing the aftermath of Human Risk in action;

2. A Taylor Swift inspired Cognitive Bias;

3. A BeSci Intervention that uses emoji to promote cybersecurity;

4. Research that explores why fitness trackers and habit changing Apps that use "streaks" to encourage us might not be such a good idea, is Something that made me think; and

5. In Something for the weekend, I recommend a book that explores how BeSci can provide creative solutions to life's problems.

Human Risk in action

A restaurant that served the wrong bottle of wine also served up a BeSci-inspired masterclass in managing the aftermath of Human Risk.
It's not that unusual for a restaurant to get an order wrong. But when the order in question is a bottle of wine, there's a greater potential for larger mistakes. 

Quite how large was illustrated by Hawksmoor, one of the UK's leading steak restaurant chains, who tweeted the following:
The wine the customer had ordered cost £260. Not exactly cheap. Even so, they ended up with something 17 times more expensive than they'd paid for.

Unsurprisingly, the tweet went viral, ensuring the restaurant got far more in media coverage than the amount they lost on inadvertently discounting the wine. 

Some commentators praised the fact they were offering Psychological Safety to the employee that made the mistake.  Others questioned how a bottle of wine could cost that much and why anyone would pay £260 for a bottle of wine, let alone £4,500! Journalists investigated critical issues like: "What kind of person would buy wine at that price?",“Would they have noticed the difference?” and "Would it have given them a hangover?".  You'll find the answers in this BBC News article and this radio interview with the restaurant's founder. 

Meanwhile, BeSci practitioners looked at it through the lens of Mental Accounting; the idea that our perception of value is heavily influenced by relative rather than absolute value. Did the diners retrospectively enjoy the wine more once they were told what they'd been drinking?  For more about the many ways that BeSci and wine are linked, I highly recommend the playful and insightful analysis in a piece called The Behavioural Thing With Wine.

The incident also nicely illustrates The Pratfall Effect, the idea that highlighting an imperfection (like admitting a mistake) can make something more rather than less attractive. As a one-off mistake, this may well turn out to be very good indeed for Hawksmoor's business.   
Back to the top 

Bi-Weekly Cognitive Bias

A Taylor Swift song provides the inspiration for looking at Hindsight Bias

A task set for her students by Dr Ana Gantman, an Assistant Professor at CUNY, produced some highly creative results. She asked them to submit examples from popular culture that illustrated points of social psychology.

One of them found inspiration in Taylor Swift’s hit song “I Knew You Were Trouble” and produced this meme:

Hindsight Bias, also known as the "knew-it-all-along" phenomenon, is a common tendency to view past events as more predictable than they were at the time. 

Because we know how things turned out when we look back on past events, it can be hard for us to think about them through the lens of the information that was available to decision-makers at the time. 
North American readers will recognise the concept of Monday Morning Quarterbacking where the mistakes made in weekend sports games are analysed, often by those with little or no professional on-field expertise, with the benefit of knowing the result.

Hindsight Bias can be particularly dangerous in legal and risk management contexts, where reviews of past events in the knowledge of the outcome, can lead to us drawing the wrong conclusions about the quality of other people's decision-making. Particularly if the decision was made under pressure that it is hard to replicate in a review.

It is so ingrained in our thinking that it can, in the words of another Taylor Swift song, be hard to "Shake It Off"
Back to the top

A BeSci Intervention

Emojis probably aren't the first thing you think of when it comes to cybersecurity.  🖥👮‍♂️Yet thanks to some smart BeSci, they now play a critical role in promoting it.
Emoji, hieroglyphic icons like these 😀👀👍🧠that are commonly used in social media and messaging apps, are a Japanese 🇯🇵 invention that uses unused space in the Unicode character database. However, as well as facilitating communication 🗣, they also play a surprising 😳role in delivering cybersecurity.

Not the emoji themselves, but the fact that we like using them. Every year on "Emoji Day"  📆new and updated emoji are officially released via software upgrades, which also contain critical security patches.  Software providers know that most people are unlikely to download upgrades that fix bugs, so including (and promoting) an emoji update, makes it much more likely that users will want to do so.

There's also a clever Network Effect in play here: there's no point in having the new emoji if you don't send them to anyone. Send them to someone who hasn't downloaded the new set, and they'll see a black question mark instead of the emoji. As a result, they're likely to feel compelled to download it themselves. For more on the power of the emoji as a cybersecurity tool, I recommend this article. 👍
Back to the top

Something that made me think

If you’re trying to change a habit then using a smart device or app that encourages you to build streaks, might seem like a good idea. But there’s evidence it might not be...

If you've ever used a fitness tracker or smartphone self-improvement app, then you'll be aware of the power of streaks, those unbroken runs of days when we consistently stick to our commitments. But what happens when (inevitably) the streak is broken?

That's what a fascinating article entitled
Why Breaking a Streak Feels So Awful examines. It explains that because of the way that they work, streaks might not actually be a good way to change habits.

According to Adam Alter, a professor of marketing at NYU Stern School of Business and author of Irresistible: The Rise of Addictive Technology and the Business of Keeping Us Hooked, streaks are “insidious by nature.” What may start as a genuine desire to learn French, for instance, becomes more valuable over time, such that you have more and more to lose as you’re ostensibly making gains.

And when you become more concerned with a perceived loss than the streak’s benefits, that’s when you run into problems, Alter says. “The issue is that they tip into negative territory when they inspire obsessions,” he explains. “A streak that gets you to take 10,000 steps every day is good until you have a stress injury, and push through it because you don’t want to abandon the streak.”

Duolingo, a language-learning app that uses gamification to encourage (or perhaps more accurately guilt-trip) its users, has an owl mascot called Duo who anthropomorphically reacts to user activity and sends daily reminders. 

Streaks are so powerful that Duolingo has even introduced an option whereby subscribers can pay to maintain a streak that they've broken.  As this video illustrates, they even launched an "in real life" version of Duo's push notifications. Though bear in mind it was released on April 1st.

Going yet one step further (pun intended) is a phone cradle targetted at users whose health insurance premia are tied to how much exercise they do as measured by their phone.  The cradle shakes the phone in a manner that allows users to create the illusion of a streak. Let's just say that it's not exactly ethical...

👏to "Accidental Behavioural Economist"@koenfucius for sharing the article on streaks. He also wrote the piece on the BeSci of wine that I referenced above. Do follow him on Twitter.

Back to the top

Something for the weekend

The word Alchemy is usually used in the context of trying to turn worthless metals into gold. It's also the title of a new book that explores how BeSci can help us create value by changing perception.

Given the goal of marketing is to persuade people, it might not be that surprising that a marketer has written a book on BeSci. However, Rory Sutherland, the Vice Chairman of Ogilvy and founder of its BeSci practice, is no ordinary marketer. 

Rory has been rightly described as "one of the leading minds in the world of branding" (NPR) and wrongly as an "absolute crapster" (TV presenter known for sweary outbursts).

Either way, Alchemy: The Surprising Power Of Ideas That Don't Make Sense is a fascinating, highly entertaining read that will change how you think about problem-solving.
In Alchemy, Rory explores how many of today's problems have been and could be solved more effectively using "psycho-logical", rather than traditionally logical, thinking. 

Summarising the book in this way doesn't really do it justice, but Rory's Rules of Alchemy which include "if there was a logical answer, we would have already found it" and
"it doesn’t pay to be logical when everybody else is being logical" are a good start.  You can read an summary of them
 here and/or watch an 18-minute video of him explaining them via the link below:
Rory Sutherland's Rules of Alchemy
For even more of his inspiring insight, watch Rory's TED Talks and listen to Thought Cages, a BBC Radio series he recently presented on BeSci.  Rory can also be heard regularly on O Behave, Ogilvy's BeSci podcast.

If you like this newsletter (and if you don't, why on earth have you read this far?!) then I'm pretty sure you'll love Alchemy.
Back to the top

Until the next time...

That's it for another edition.  

Feedback, of whatever kind, is always appreciated.  For that and to get in touch, use the links below.

If you've enjoyed the newsletter, then do subscribe to ensure you get future editions straight to your inbox. 


Forward to a Friend
Back to the top
Copyright © 2019 Human Risk, All rights reserved.

To manage your Human Risk newsletter subscription use these links:
update my preferences or unsubscribe


This email was sent to <<Email Address>>
why did I get this?    unsubscribe from this list    update subscription preferences
Human Risk · Sutherland Street · London, SW1V 4LA · United Kingdom

Email Marketing Powered by Mailchimp