Prospect Theory

A loss hurts more than an equal gain feels good

We take more risks to avoid the pain of loss. The more we gain, however, the fewer risks we continue to take and the less we feel with each gain.

Kahneman & Tversky (1979). Prospect Theory: An analysis of decision under risk. Econometrica, Vol. 47, No. 2, pp. 263-292.

The study

Setup

Prospect theory is explained with a graph. Negative losses and positive gains recorded on the horizontal are set against a vertical intensity of feeling for those losses or gains.

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Results

As we gain more, we feel less for each gain. In contrast, even a small pain (shown in red) feels a lot more negative than an equal-sized gain feels good.

np_read_2490885_000000

In detail

Key Takeaways

Package pain. Consumers will feel less overall pain from any costs incurred when you package and deliver them all together rather than when they're felt as separate, smaller pains.

Spread out rewards. Instead of offering larger, chunkier benefits to consumers, break these down into smaller pieces, spreading them out across time. $10 given 4 times feels more valuable overall than $40 given once.

Offer mixed product bundles. We feel less good with each thing we consume. Therefore, the first can of soda tastes better than the fourth. This means we'd get more complimentary value from a bag of chips instead. Look for ways to offer relevant, mixed product bundles to offset diminishing consumer sensitivity.

Prospect Theory

A loss hurts more than an equal gain feels good

We take more risks to avoid the pain of loss. The more we gain, however, the fewer risks we continue to take and the less we feel with each gain.

Kahneman & Tversky (1979). Prospect Theory: An analysis of decision under risk. Econometrica, Vol. 47, No. 2, pp. 263-292.

The study

Setup

Prospect theory is explained with a graph. Negative losses and positive gains recorded on the horizontal are set against a vertical intensity of feeling for those losses or gains.

Results

As we gain more, we feel less for each gain. In contrast, even a small pain (shown in red) feels a lot more negative than an equal-sized gain feels good.

Key Takeaways

Package pain. Consumers will feel less overall pain from any costs incurred when you package and deliver them all together rather than when they're felt as separate, smaller pains.

Spread out rewards. Instead of offering larger, chunkier benefits to consumers, break these down into smaller pieces, spreading them out across time. $10 given 4 times feels more valuable overall than $40 given once.

Offer mixed product bundles. We feel less good with each thing we consume. Therefore, the first can of soda tastes better than the fourth. This means we'd get more complimentary value from a bag of chips instead. Look for ways to offer relevant, mixed product bundles to offset diminishing consumer sensitivity.

Prospect Theory

A loss hurts more than an equal gain feels good

We take more risks to avoid the pain of loss. The more we gain, however, the fewer risks we continue to take and the less we feel with each gain.

The study

Setup

Prospect theory is explained with a graph. Negative losses and positive gains recorded on the horizontal are set against a vertical intensity of feeling for those losses or gains.

Results

As we gain more, we feel less for each gain. In contrast, even a small pain (shown in red) feels a lot more negative than an equal-sized gain feels good.

np_read_2490885_000000

In detail

Pairings

Experience

Offset pain numbness with exponential feedback loops

Our discomfort for losses wanes as they mount, as we become desensitised to pain. Therefore, we're at much greater risk of not taking appropriate action and, for instance, staying in debt. This benefits nobody.

How might you build on existing feedback loops that warn of creeping, dangerous behaviour?

How might these grow dramatically according to certain threshold levels? Any desensitisation needs to be counter-balanced with an exponentially serious warning system of feedback to prevent undue damage.

Reframe past losses as part of a bigger future gain

We're disproportionately averse to losing our efforts. Offering a perspective of higher level goals or mission can help reduce our attachment to wasted effort along the way.

Where can you remind people of their ultimate dreams?

How can you package the loss as part of a necessary sacrifice towards a bigger gain?

Connected to

Running workshops?

Prospect Theory

is included in Box One of our physical workshop tool.
is included in Box Two of our physical workshop tool.
Box One