Tag Archives: Hong Kong

Feedback leads to virtual progress

People seek for feedback about progress. When travelers arrive at the Chek Lap Kok International Airport, they catch a train to Kowloon and Hong Kong. In the train, there is a blue-light indicator which shows where the train is right now. This feedback gives correct information to travelers.

However, feedback is not always objectively given but can be subjectively manipulated. Virtual and illusory progress can be made by manipulating feedback. One of my favorite examples is the “purchase acceleration” suggested by marketing researchers. They reported that customers who received a 12-stamp coffee card with 2 preexisting “bonus” stamps (B) complete the 10 required purchases faster than customers who received a “regular” 10-stamp card (A). If the preexisting bonus stamps are presented in a more visually appealing way (like this), virtual progress could be further enhanced.

Kivetz, R., Urminsky, O., & Zheng, Y. (2006). The goal-gradient hypothesis resurrected: Purchase acceleration, illusionary goal progress, and customer retention. Journal of Marketing Research43(1), 39-58.

The goal-gradient hypothesis denotes the classic finding from behaviorism that animals expend more effort as they approach a reward. Building on this hypothesis, the authors generate new propositions for the human psychology of rewards. They test these propositions using field experiments, secondary customer data, paper-and-pencil problems, and Tobit and logit models. The key findings indicate that (1) participants in a real café reward program purchase coffee more frequently the closer they are to earning a free coffee; (2) Internet users who rate songs in return for reward certificates visit the rating Web site more often, rate more songs per visit, and persist longer in the rating effort as they approach the reward goal; (3) the illusion of progress toward the goal induces purchase acceleration (e.g., customers who receive a 12-stamp coffee card with 2 preexisting “bonus” stamps complete the 10 required purchases faster than customers who receive a “regular” 10-stamp card); and (4) a stronger tendency to accelerate toward the goal predicts greater retention and faster reengagement in the program. The conceptualization and empirical findings are captured by a parsimonious goal-distance model, in which effort investment is a function of the proportion of original distance remaining to the goal. In addition, using statistical and experimental controls, the authors rule out alternative explanations for the observed goal gradients. They discuss the theoretical significance of their findings and the managerial implications for incentive systems, promotions, and customer retention.

We humanize machine behavior and mechanize human behavior

In order to spice up our daily communication, we often humanize what electronic devices do. For instance, we say, our mobile phone is “stupid” or our storage space “gains weight.” This “anthropomorphism” is defined as the attribution of human traits, emotions, or intentions to non-human entities. According to Wikipedia, it has ancient roots as storytelling and artistic devices, and most cultures have traditional fables with anthropomorphized animals as characters.

However, there is another way to spice up our daily communication. We can mechanize what humans do. For instance, we say, we need to “upgrade” our brains or we want to go to bed to “recharge.” This “mechanomorphism” is a conception of something (as the universe or a living creature) as operating mechanically or to be fully accounted for according to the laws of physical science. Differently from anthropomorphism, mechanomorphism seems to be more popular among tech-savvy younger generation.

In Hong Kong, I met an excellent example of mechanomorphism. A chalkboard sign outside a coffee shop says “Another coffee is calling you.” Then there are two options: “Remind me every 5 minutes” or “Msg my brain to do it.”

Caporael, L.R. (1986), Anthropomorphism and mechanomorphism: Two faces of the human machine, Computers in Human Behavior, 2 (3), 215-234.

This paper explores the ambiguity of the “human machine”. It suggests that anthropomorphism results from a “default schema” applied to phenomena, including machines, that a perceiver finds otherwise inexplicable. Mechanomorphism, the attribution of machine characteristics to humans, is a culturally derived metaphor that presently dominates cognitive science. The relationships between anthropomorphism and mechanomorphism pose a special difficulty for the question, “Can machines think?” Does a positive response reflect a cognitive bias on the part of the perceiver or a genuine attribute of the computer? The problem is illustrated for Turing’s “imitation game” for thinking machines, and a strategy for constraining anthropomorphic attributions is proposed.

Chinese people need more than a drinking fountain

We know that westerners and easterners think differently. Markus and Kitayama (1991) argue that different cultural thoughts come from different self concepts. Roughly speaking, a US citizen has an independent concept whereas a Japanese citizen has a dependent one.

Markus, H. R., & Kitayama, S. (1991). Culture and the self: Implications for cognition, emotion, and motivation. Psychological review, 98(2), 224.

People in different cultures have strikingly different construals of the self, of others, and of the interdependence of the 2. These construals can influence, and in many cases determine, the very nature of individual experience, including cognition, emotion, and motivation. Many Asian cultures have distinct conceptions of individuality that insist on the fundamental relatedness of individuals to each other. The emphasis is on attending to others, fitting in, and harmonious interdependence with them. American culture neither assumes nor values such an overt connectedness among individuals. In contrast, individuals seek to maintain their independence from others by attending to the self and by discovering and expressing their unique inner attributes. As proposed herein, these construals are even more powerful than previously imagined. Theories of the self from both psychology and anthropology are integrated to define in detail the difference between a construal of the self as independent and a construal of the self as interdependent. Each of these divergent construals should have a set of specific consequences for cognition, emotion, and motivation; these consequences are proposed and relevant empirical literature is reviewed. Focusing on differences in self-construals enables apparently inconsistent empirical findings to be reconciled, and raises questions about what have been thought to be culture-free aspects of cognition, emotion, and motivation.

Although this research taught us Asians may think similarly to some extent, they do not necessarily behave in the same way. For instance, Asians seem to communicate in different modes depending on where they live. Recently, I have noticed that their preferences for water temperature differ greatly as well. At the Hong Kong international airport, for instance, no Chinese airline passengers used a drinking fountain. Instead they brought their own containers and stood in line for a hot water dispenser. I cannot imagine Koreans wait in line for hot water when cold water is available nearby. The world is full of different people!

Street signs for kids

I have never met any street sign which encourages someone to DO something. Instead, most street signs ask someone NOT to do something. For instance, they ask pedestrians not to run fast or they ask drivers not to drive fast.

However, at a school in Hong Kong, I finally met a different street sign designed for students. Several yellow people were painted on a street surrounding a tree. Interestingly, they ran by carrying different items including basketball, football, soda, and noodle (?!).

According to a group of psychologists, we behave differently when we are in the promotion-focused mode than when we are in the prevention-focused mode. I hope we see more promotion-focused street signs painted on the road (e.g., please fly drone here, please use mobile phone here, etc.).

Trope, Y., & Liberman, N. (2010). Construal-Level Theory of Psychological Distance. Psychological Review, 117(2), 440–463.

People are capable of thinking about the future, the past, remote locations, another person’s perspective, and counterfactual alternatives. Without denying the uniqueness of each process, it is proposed that they constitute different forms of traversing psychological distance. Psychological distance is egocentric: Its reference point is the self in the here and now, and the different ways in which an object might be removed from that point—in time, in space, in social distance, and in hypotheticality—constitute different distance dimensions. Transcending the self in the here and now entails mental construal, and the farther removed an object is from direct experience, the higher (more abstract) the level of construal of that object. Supporting this analysis, research shows (a) that the various distances are cognitively related to each other, (b) that they similarly influence and are influenced by level of mental construal, and (c) that they similarly affect prediction, preference, and action.