Research

James Swift

22 January 2020

Strategist’s Digest: January 2020 

Contagious digests the most interesting and relevant research from the world of advertising and beyond, because there’s just too much to read and too little time.

We left it late, but here’s the first Strategist’s Digest of 2020.

This month we have 1) a meta-analysis claiming the link between mental health and social media is a fallacy 2) a study arguing that loss aversion was wrongly labelled a fallacy 3) the secret to a persuasive review and 4) people’s planet-saving consumption habits.

Photo by Sunyu Kim from Pexels

Adolescent Mental Health in the Digital Age: Facts, Fears and Future Directions 

​​​​​​​Candice Odgers, Michaeline Jensen

Give it to me in one sentence.

A review of existing research reveals no evidence that heavy internet and social media use harms kids’ mental health.

Give me a little more detail.

Odgers (also featured in September’s Digest) and Jensen investigated whether the canon of research showed a consistent and significant link between adolescents’ mental health and their use of digital technology.

In the past, there was a correlation, but that was when only a tiny number of people used the internet and they did so for different reasons than today’s youth.

Studies now return a mix of positive, negative and null associations, which are usually too small to be meaningful and offer no clear way of discerning cause from effect. 

Why is this interesting?

As Odgers points out: ‘It is critical to know whether recent fears about adolescents’ digital technology usage are justified...Policies restricting adolescents’ access to new technologies...may be ill advised if new technologies are being used as a valuable source of social support or are required in order to build digital and interpersonal skills.’

Any weaknesses?

Don’t think so.

Where can I find the whole report?

Here, and it’s free. The New York Times has also published a good article about the research. It’s a veritable buffet of information. 

Image by Mike Mozart via Flickr

Moderating Loss Aversion: Loss Aversion Has Moderators, But Reports of its Death are Greatly Exaggerated 

Kellen Mrkva, Eric Johnson, Simon Gächter, Andrewas Herrmann

Give it to me in one sentence.

Specialist knowledge mitigates feelings of loss aversion, but age seems to exacerbate them.

Give me a little more detail.

Loss aversion – the theory that losses weigh more heavily on people’s decisions than the prospect of comparative gains – was dismissed as a fallacy in 2018 by two researchers (Gal and Rucker) who claimed it disappeared when isolated from people’s preference for the status quo.

The authors of Moderating Loss Aversion tested this (and other doubts about loss aversion) by conducting multiple experiments on a wide range of subjects. Loss aversion studies had mostly used college students as participants, but Mrkva et al tested over 17,000 subjects of differing ages, education levels and wealth (including 3,000 millionaires).

They concluded that while most people were loss averse (even when controlling for their preference for the status quo), they exhibited ‘vastly different levels of loss aversion’.

This variation was systematic and predictable. Age and expertise appeared to be the most significant moderators. When someone knows a lot about something, loss aversion drops (but only in relation to the thing they are knowledgeable of). But the bias generally becomes more intense as people age.

Why is this interesting?

Loss aversion has been widely adopted into marketing practice since it was discovered by Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky.

This latest research shores up the theory and adds nuance (Richard Thaler’s claim that losses hurt twice as much as gains make us feel good looks like nonsense, in light of this study).

The finding that loss aversion increases with age is also significant, given most countries’ populations are getting older.

Any weaknesses?

By the authors’ own admission, their findings on moderators just scratches the surface.

Where can I find the whole report?

Here, but you’ll have to pay.

Featuring Mistakes: The Persuasive Impact of Purchase Mistakes in Online Reviews 

Taly Reich, Sam Maglio

Give it to me in one sentence.

People are more persuaded by product reviews that mention a previous purchasing mistake.

Give me a little more detail.

The researchers tested whether product reviews in which the author admits having made a mistake with their previous purchase (before buying the product they are reviewing). For instance: ‘When my first Canon battery expired, I purchased a knock-off. What a mistake. It lasted about 1/3 as long as the Canon. (Richard J. Martin, review for a Canon battery)’

According to the research, such reviews were more persuasive. 

The researchers also examined why people believed reviews that contained a mistake. They found that it was nothing to do with the pratfall effect or integrity. It was because readers believed those reviewers had greater expertise, as a result of their past missteps.

Why is this interesting?

If a retail website makes these kinds of reviews more prominent, it’s likely to convert more customers.

Any weaknesses?

Not that I can spot. 

Where can I find the whole report?

Here, but it’ll cost you.

Climate Change and Consumer Behaviour 

Ipsos Mori

Give it to me in one sentence.

Sixty-nine per cent of people have changed their consumption habits because they’re concerned about climate change.

Give me a little more detail.

Ipsos Mori polled nearly 20,000 people across 28 countries about their consumption habits. In particular they were asked about how much water and energy they used at home, how much they recycled and what food they bought.

Why is this interesting?

It’s a broad sample that appears to confirm people (not just those on social media or attending protests) are changing their ways to help the planet.

Any weaknesses?

This is claimed data and it’s an emotive subject, about which people may feel compelled to lie or exaggerated. We only included it because it’s such a large sample and because Ipsos Mori knows what it’s doing better than most.

Where can I find the whole report?

Here, and it’s gratis.

Like the way we think? This is just a taste of the kind of information that’s available to our members. Find out more about Contagious membership, here.