This is the eighth edition of D&T Special, a more in-depth view of topics that interest the Canvs team. Today’s topic – People are dreadfully fearful of loss, and how humans navigate narratives around that thought.
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✍️ From the Canvs Research & Editorial Desk
A fair amount of a persons thought share goes towards gain, and how to optimise said gain. However everything falls by the wayside (with research to show why) when loss comes into the picture. Even when said gains seem to outweigh potentially averted losses, humans have a tendency to prevent loss. Strange stuff, the human brain.
This week the Canvs R&E team has spent some time pondering this concept, let’s dive into some details.
Nothing gets a human more gutted than the thought of loss. The fear of loss is an existential fear that comes in-built with the human experience.
Scenario: You find a 20-dollar bill on the street on your walk back home, but as you get closer to your house, a petty thief snatches the bill out of your pocket. There’s a high chance the loss of the money to the thief felt far more painful than the swell in happiness you felt when you found the unsuspecting 20-dollars.
The sense of loss almost always hurts more than the joys of gain, and humans will generally tend to protect themselves from the former as opposed to assure the latter – this is what academics like to call ‘loss aversion bias.’
Key takeaways from this read:
1. What academics found
In 1984, this concept was first coined by Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky in research titled “Choices, Values, and Frames” The findings express that a loss of $X is more aversive than a gain of $X is attractive. People fear a loss twice as much as they are likely to welcome an equivalent gain.
2. What relative thinking (or the lack thereof) has to do with this
The way content is structured for a human by designers can influence what they focus on and what they might conveniently ignore. The loss aversion bias has strong ties with the Scarcity Principle. Many products, for instance, e-commerce websites use scarcity as a means to trigger sales by tapping into their FOMO psyche.
3. How products can use this if used responsibly
Triggering scarcity via showing potentially losable discounts and deals can be an effective way to trigger loss aversion amongst users, however, a tool like this should be wielded with great care, as while toeing the line between nudge and blackmail, one can fall into a more compromised moral space. Read about some gracefully done examples of loss aversion by some reasonably large and reputed organisations.
📚 What we were reading this week
It’s a rather common mistake to attribute all Braun designs to Dieter Rams and miss Gabriel Lluelles Rabadá’s craft. A look at the work of this Spaniard – someone nearly unknown outside his home of Catalonia.
As part of a new series reflecting on what it means to be creative, illustrator and author Ben Tallon reflects on how designers and intelligent machines might co-exist.
It’s one of the most widely shared marketing campaigns globally. A talk with the design team behind the visual identity to understand what it takes to grab the world’s attention.
The research breakthrough ends decades of failure and shows a new era of drugs to treat Alzheimer’s – the most common form of dementia – is possible.
Some highlights from the past month of D&T