Exploiting cognitive biases

Zynga has been long know for being run by spreadsheet people and not game people (see video “Monetizing like Zynga“).

It seems now that in addition to spreadsheets, they are masters of cognitive biases. A new paper by Juho Hamari details who social games have taken Daniel Kahneman’s book Thinking, Fast and Slow and implemented game mechanics that take advantage of people’s cognitive biases (their System 1, as Daniel puts it).

A few highlights:

Exploiting endowment effect: game mechanics that emphasize LOSING something you already own, as opposed to gaining something you don’t own yet.

Sunk-cost fallacy: game mechanics that focus on the amount of effort you have already invested in the game, forcing you to consider sunk-costs when a “rational” person would discard the sunk costs and focus on the present (and future) costs.

Status quo effect: Select a default option that is significantly higher than the average value – when it comes to purchase of virtual currency. Most people would think that spending $20 on Farmville cash is OK for a game, only to find out it doesn’t even buy them a tractor.

Quota anchoring: creating a number of DAILY quests. Failing to do all daily quests results in a strong desire by the player to return to the game and complete all daily quests.

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