Motivation and heuristic thinking

Dan Zakay, Dida Fleisig

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

Abstract

Introduction, An advertisement was recently distributed among many Israeli families by the Israeli National Lottery (Mifal Hapais) in which joining a subscription program by purchasing a certain number was offered. According to the offer, the number would participate weekly in the lottery, and the unique aspect of it was its being a personal lucky number, especially chosen for each recipient. Furthermore, it was promised that this personal lucky number would increase the chances of winning. Because the National Lottery is a profitable organization, it seems logical to assume that the advertisement succeeded in recruiting enough members that at least the costs of producing the campaign were paid back. A rational analysis of that advertisement readily reveals several nonrational biases: (1) The idea that a fixed number increases the chances of winning; (2) there are lucky numbers; and (3) a personal number augments the chances of winning. Yet, there are people who fall into such traps. Furthermore, most probably, some of those who do are aware of the misleading information included in the advertisement. In a study conducted by Klar, Zakay, and Sharvit (2002), it was found that many Israelis adopted unique behavior patterns in order to cope with the threat of terrorist attacks. Many of those patterns (e.g., avoiding going to shopping centers at the same day and hour of the week in which a terrorist attack previously occurred) might be considered as reflecting superstitious behavior. In effect, many of those who adopted such behaviors were aware of the fact that this did not really reduce their chances of being involved in terrorist attacks; still, they could not give up these behaviors, mainly because it gave them some feeling of control over the situation. Those two examples raise questions about why people swallow intuitive nonrational baits, on the one hand, but, on the other hand, can justify such behaviors from a utilitarian perspective of some sort. In the present chapter, an attempt will be made to analyze those questions, but first, the topic of heuristics and the impact of motivation on heuristic thinking will be reviewed.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationCognition and Motivation
Subtitle of host publicationForging an Interdisciplinary Perspective
PublisherCambridge University Press
Pages289-306
Number of pages18
ISBN (Electronic)9781139021463
ISBN (Print)9780521888677
DOIs
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2011

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