Do you know the most ironic feature of science? It is the enormous skepticism that precedes belief. So when I started delving into psychology (formally). I too had my share of skepticism regarding the research backed theories. And I feel that this skepticism partly evolved out of the ease with which I could test these theories in my daily life. However before I start, it is important to note that all these experiments were purely for my leisure and any attempt to draw formal inferences from these would require a rigorous treatment of the subject matter under controlled conditions.

Having said that, it was really amazing to see how immensely rewarding this branch of science could be. In fact, all of us use it subconsciously on the daily basis. Therefore in this short series of blog posts (Tryst with psychology) I will try to document some conscious usage of psychological theories in my daily life. Let’s see how you can use it to make someone’s day. 😜

Cognitive ruse in an Auto

I clearly remember, how I was desperately switching between Ola and Uber applications on my mobile phone because from 20 minutes no driver was accepting my ride request. Eventually I decided to walk up to my society’s main gate which is exactly 524 steps away from my room (Yes! I counted it once🙈) as I was sure of getting an auto outside. Shortly after I rejected couple of autos due to high pricing, one promising auto stopped by. He told me Rs. 80 to which I firmly replied Rs. 50. He instantly reduced his prices by Rs. 10, I said Rs.50 again. He did reduce it again to Rs. 60 and was looking quite adamant until I tried my final maneuver to walk away.

So I was finally able to convince him for a Rs. 50 ride. In the retrospect, I was thinking how it was just a matter of Rs. 10 and I bargained so hard with the poor man. Frankly, I felt terrible for it and decided to supplement the fee with Rs. 10 towards the end of the trip. So I did that. I handed him Rs. 100 note to which he returned Rs. 50. I gave Rs. 10 back. He was clearly elated after this whole transaction and chirruped “Thank you Bhaiya”.

So where is that little cognitive trick? Someday prior to this incident I was reading about cognition in humans and I stumbled upon the topic of Contrafactual Thinking.

Counterfactual thinking: A concept in psychology that involves the human tendency to create possible alternatives to life events that have already occurred.

So in simple terms this means that we have a tendency to paint alternate scenarios to past events. Therefore the auto driver too had painted alternate realities in which I had given him Rs. 60 (His most favorable fee) but he was disappointed a little when he realized that the entire ride was going to be for Rs. 50 and had finally accepted that. Hence in his mind there was no expectancy of any gain. So the moment I gave him Rs. 10, it actually surpassed his expectations since it was more of a pleasant surprise. It was obvious that he wouldn’t have been happier if I had agreed for Rs. 60 in the first place. (Then he would have thought about scenarios of getting Rs. 70 or 80 eventually feeling inadequate with Rs. 60 itself!)

Taking it further

So can we use this concept to please someone else other than auto drivers? I think the possibilities are enormous. For instance, you can use this to accentuate a special evening for your loved ones. Just call them up in the morning to inform about your urgent work plans that evening, apologize and promise to make up for it sometime later. In the evening just surprise them by showing up as per the plan to surpass their expectation of a usual evening. (I hope you don’t get any other surprises there 😂) . This is the basic premise of surprise birthday parties. Just simply surpass expectations, if you can’t do it under normal conditions, lower them down temporarily and then do it.

We will talk more about my other experiments next week where I will tell you how I manipulated arousal levels of my teammates during a game to ensure our win.

Till then, enjoy your auto rides and don’t bargain so hard!