26 Dec

Thought-provoking (possibly paranoid anxiety-provoking) article about the economic theory and behaviourism deployed against us by online companies to push our subconscious buttons and make us buy more.


A few nuggets particularly pertinent to artists and their work:

[1] “Eliminating small frictions can radically alter one’s decisions.” Asking people to opt out of a choice retains more people than asking people to opt in. The example given is that participation in organ donation doubled to over 80% when people were asked to opt out instead of in.

[2] Many people’s wish lists of things they’d like to see and do or their stated preferences are aspirational rather than realistic, i.e. they reflect the kind of person they’d like to be (or like to be seen as) rather than what they actually do when the moment of choice comes. This can be seen quite clearly in the discrepancy between how vociferously many people say they want to visit art galleries or events, and how few people actually bother to show up or participate when arts activities are made available to them.

[3] People place an irrationally high value on their own creations, based largely upon the time they’ve invested with little regard to any rational analysis of its monetary worth, attractiveness, utility or any other consideration. Perhaps the lesson here is that you are not the best judge of your own work’s value: listen to informed advice.

[4] “The amount that shoppers are willing to pay is constrained, or anchored, by the first price presented to them. Once a price point is set, it’s hard to dislodge the anchor.” Using the example of the Apple store, the article’s author suggests that Apple made an error in allowing a jumble of free, low priced and full price apps. Even a nominal fee of 10 cents would have discouraged downward pressure on prices, which led in turn to almost total devaluation of the labour involved in programming and designing a small piece of software, let alone anything of any genuine merit.

I should imagine the lesson here is pretty apparent to artists, many of who have either knowingly or through omission allowed exactly the same thing to happen to the value of their work and their labour to the point where it is generally regarded as having no worth whatsoever. It also applies to pricing your work absurdly low or ridiculously high: starting high and reducing looks arrogant or desperate (or both) and disgruntles early buyers, while too low anchors your work there and implies that you don’t value your own efforts.


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