The Why #40: Why should I bother voting in the upcoming election?
By Dan Monheit, 22.4.22
Question submitted by Dylan, Bentleigh
Well Dylan, let’s get the obvious answer out of the way first. Nobody wants to cop a $20 dollar fine (for first offenders or up to $180 for serial non-compliers) simply because they forgot, didn’t feel like it, or wanted to take down the system in the laziest way imaginable. But obvious answers aren’t what hard hitting publications like The Why were built on, so let’s go deeper.
Why should we vote? Maybe because we believe in the concept of democracy. Maybe we feel that the hard work of the suffragettes shouldn’t be lost to Netflix and Oodies. Or maybe, just maybe, we can’t sleep at night knowing free snags at the voting booths will go to waste if we don’t show up.
Yes, there are plenty of rational, moral and objective reasons why we should vote. But there’s also an underlying behavioural one.
The Endowment Effect
The Endowment Effect refers to our tendency to overvalue items simply because we own them.
The Endowment Effect was demonstrated in a series of studies conducted by Kahneman, Knetsch, and Thaler throughout the 1990s. In one study, university students were randomly assigned into one of two groups; Buyers or Sellers.
Buyers were shown a coffee mug and asked how much they’d be willing to pay for it, while Sellers were given one of the same coffee mugs and asked how much they’d need to be paid to part with it. On average, Sellers wanted $7.12, while Buyers were only willing to pay $2.87. The only difference? Ownership.
If you’ve ever struggled to get the price you wanted when selling your second hand car, fishing rod or guitar, the Endowment Effect was probably at play. It’s also why you’ll find people flogging last season’s dresses on Marketplace at the original RRP and a big part of why investment brokers hold on to risky stocks, long after they should have sold them.
Back in the land of politics, once we register, consider who to vote for, rock up on the day and make our decision, that vote — as well as the democratic system it exists in, and the government of the day — becomes ours. We own it. We appreciate it. We (over)value it.
Sure, it’s still just one vote in sixteen million, but feeling ownership over the outcome makes us more likely to keep up to date with policy changes, tune into community issues, and lean in to becoming a more informed, involved citizen.
Yep, mandatory voting is one seriously clever community-investment tactic by the government.
In the world of brands, IKEA uses the Endowment Effect superbly. Wandering around the maze of curated, homely showrooms makes it easy to feel like the products are already ours. And now that we’ve imagined our life with them, we seem happy to pay a premium to make it a reality.
If you don’t have space for an IKEA-scale showroom, never fear. There are lots of ways to help customers feel like something is theirs before it really is. From test drives and free trials to generous returns policies and product configurators, giving people a chance to imagine their life with what you sell, will make it harder for them to walk away without it.
PS If you missed the last edition, you can still check out why people buy lottery tickets despite the minuscule chance of winning here.
Bad Decisions Podcast
Learn more about the Endowment Effect in episode 4 of the Bad Decisions podcast.
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