Back in 2006, Cornell University researcher Brian Wansink and his colleagues James Painter and Yeon-Kyung Lee conducted an experiment to find out.
For Secretaries Week, they gave all the secretaries in an office building some nice, covered containers with 30 Hershey’s Kisses each. The secretaries were told that the gifts were not to be shared.
There was just one difference: Half of the containers were clear, while the other half were opaque.
Every night after the secretaries had gone home, the researchers counted how many Hershey’s Kisses they had eaten and refilled the containers (If this happened to me, I sure wouldn’t tell anyone that I had magic chocolate refills every night). This continued for two weeks.
Here’s what the researchers found:
Secretaries who had been given the opaque containers ate an average of 4.6 Kisses per day, while those who had been given the clear containers ate an average of 7.7 Kisses per day, or 71 percent more chocolate.
Just the mere sight of the chocolates through the clear containers was enough to get the secretaries to munch through way more chocolate than their counterparts.
That’s an additional 77 calories per day, and over a year, that would have added up to over 2kg of extra weight. Owtch.
The Power Of Hidden Persuaders
Many of us think that we’re in control of our our actions, but there are hidden persuaders all around us that subtly influence how we think and act.
For example, I once had a UOB savings account that had like $421 in it. It was just one of those random accounts that I’d stopped using and wanted to close. Since my balance was less than $500, UOB started deducting $2 from it in fees every month.
I knew that I had to close the account; I knew that I was losing money every month; but I procrastinated doing it for over a year. Why?
Because there was the invisible barrier of inconvenience: I had to go to the bank, queue up behind loads of people, do the paperwork, withdraw my money, and deposit it somewhere else.
It wasn’t a terribly big barrier, but it was enough for me to procrastinate and lose $30 in fees.
But what if we could flip this around? What if we could use these Hidden Persuaders to help us live richer, healthier, and more productive lives?
How To Take Advantage of Hidden Persuaders
Professor Wansink – who also wrote the excellent book Mindless Eating on the psychology of food – described how we can use this knowledge to help us eat healthier.
For example, if you wanted to eat less cookies and more fruit, you can do yourself a favour by putting the cookies in a hard-to-reach corner in a cupboard. Then put your fruit in easy-to-grab bowls in the fridge.
You could still grab a cookie even if you wanted to, but the hidden persuader of added inconvenience might just nudge you to eat the fruit instead.
We can also apply this to other areas of our lives.
If you wanted to save more, automatically transferring a few hundred dollars to a separate savings account every month will make you less likely to spend it. (I teach you how to do this in my free ebook Small Tweaks)
You can still access that money in the event of an emergency, but the added inconvenience will make it more likely that you’ll stay disciplined and not touch that cash.
What about productivity? Apps like Freedom let you schedule times to cut yourself off from the internet so you don’t waste your night watching lame YouTube videos.
Of course, you could restart your computer to get back online, but you’re more likely to settle in to get some serious work done, or get your much-needed 7 hours of sleep.
Now, I’d love to hear from you.
Think about something you’ve been meaning to do – like exercise more, meditate, learn investing, terminate an Investment-Linked Plan, etc – but haven’t gotten round to doing it yet.
Now think about whether they are any Hidden Persuaders that are subtly holding you back. What can you do to eliminate them?
Let me know in the comments below. I read every one.
Image credits: frankieleon