Get my 5-day email funnel that generated $400,000 from a single launch

Want an email sales funnel that's already proven to work? Get the entire word-for-word email funnel that generated $400,000 from a single launch and apply it to your own business.

Yes! Send me the funnel now
Start Here: “The Ultimate Guide to Personal Finance”

How to trick dumb kids into eating less Halloween candy

27 Comments- Get free updates of new posts here

0

How can a mirror cause dramatic behavioral changes in kids?

Mirror

First, I should acknowledge that the kids are not really dumb because of the psychological technique I’m going to describe below, but can’t we all agree that kids are pretty dumb in general? Come on. My parents just told me a story about how, when I was a kid, my Dad once cut a grapefruit for me and sprinkled sugar on it. I screamed and screamed for FIFTEEN MINUTES about how I didn’t want sugar on it. When my dad finally said, “Ok ok” and took the sugar off with a spoon, I still screamed because I didn’t want THAT grapefruit. I feel sorry for my dad, 24 years later, and I hope you see why I make fun of dumb kids now. So I’m delighted when I can trick them.

In 1979, researchers Beaman, Klentz, Diener, and Svanum wrote a terrific piece of research involving Cooley’s Looking Glass Self, which basically points out that we are not independent individuals as we like to think. Instead, we’re a product of our surroundings, including how we think others think of us, and we act accordingly. For example, if I believe other people think of me as an entrepreneur, I’m more likely to act entrepreneurially so I can continue developing that positive judgment.

They made this practical using an experiment with children and Halloween. Since I know many of you are illiterate and only read blogs for information, I took the trouble of going through the literature for you. Remember these from college?

Picture 4

The researchers decided to see how they could apply the looking-glass principle to change children’s behavior. To do that, they tested 349 children who were trick-or-treating by setting up a bowl full of candy and using the following manipulations:

  1. They would ask the children their names and ages to evoke self-awareness, or “individuate” them (e.g., “I am Ramit Sethi” and the accompanying connotations of ‘I am a good person’).
  2. In one condition, a woman told the children to only take one piece of candy.
  3. In another condition, a mirror was placed conspicuously so children could see themselves as they reached into the candy bowl.
  4. In a final condition, they combined the “warning” and “mirror” conditions.

There is a lot more to it, and while the methodology is interesting, I’ll just cut to the results.

Picture 3

What did they find?

Key results

  • BASELINE: With no mirror and no warning to take only one piece of candy from the bowl, 75% of children took more than 1 piece of candy. Ok, makes sense. It’s sitting there in front of you.
  • VERBAL WARNING ONLY: When the experimenters warned children to take only 1 candy, that number dropped to 34.2%. Good job kids, listen to your elders.
  • COMBINED EFFECT: When the researchers (1) warned the children to only take one candy, plus (2) put a mirror in front of them, that number dropped to 11.7%. Astonishing.

Why would a mirror produce such a big change in behavior?

What are some of the other ways you can apply this to yourself?

I’ll be covering this — plus more principles of social psychology — in the I Will Teach You To Be Rich boot camp, launching November 3rd.

Boot Camp

Learn more…

Get additional bonuses and an early-bird discount by signing up for the free pre-list here.

0

Related Articles

standard post picture

How to give advice that people actually take

Alright, who here has a friend who’s asked you for advice, and when you told them exactly what to ...

Read More
standard post picture

How to not hate live events

I recently spoke at a conference in the Bay Area where the speaker introduced me as saying, “AND WE GOT ...

Read More

27 Comments

0
 

Leave a Reply

27 Comments on "How to trick dumb kids into eating less Halloween candy"

Notify of
avatar

Sort by:   newest | oldest
Peter B.
6 years 11 months ago

Very interesting study. Thanks for sharing.

Reminds me of similar studies that have been done involving honor codes or self-policed action and the presence of human eyes – either real or just an image.

This article in the New Scientist talks about a study done in an office coffee room where people were supposed to pay for their drinks on the honor system. Just by posting a picture of eyes near the tip box, people paid 2.76 times more.

kadavy
6 years 11 months ago
According to my college Social Psychology textbook (the only textbook I kept), diminished self-awareness is called deindividuation, and it causes people to behave in a less-restrained manner, to be more likely to act without thinking about their own individual values, and to be more responsive to situational factors. Deindividuation is blamed for incidents when people act irrationally, such as during a riot. It is increased by alcohol consumption, and decreased (meaning self-awareness is increased) by mirrors, cameras, small towns, bright lights, large name tags, uninterrupted quiet, etc.. To wit, if you’re out at a noisy place with your friends, you’ve… Read more »
Matthew Hall
6 years 11 months ago

Fascinating stuff Ramit – I think that this effect could be at the root of success for services like Smartypig & Wesabe, which are about involving your own social circle in your finances.

Money being a taboo topic for many people is certainly to our detriment. You have me thinking of more ways to use this effect – thanks!

kadavy
6 years 11 months ago

@MatthewHall

“Money being a taboo topic for many people…”

you must not live in the midwest 🙂

Mommy Reporter
6 years 11 months ago

Funny how something so simple can be so profound. I agree, very interesting study…

Diana
6 years 11 months ago

HAHAHAHA. My neighbours are going to wonder wtf is there a mirror and a bowl of candy outside of my house tomorrow night. I think the mirror ascept on Halloween is actually kind of creepy. Reminds me of The Ring!

Minority Fortune
6 years 11 months ago

I’ve read before about the psychological effect a mirror has on one’s actions. I think when we see a mirror, we suddenly quantify risks of stepping out of bounds because there’s another set of eyeballs on us (or so we think). It’s a good tactic to put to use in many areas, including finances. Now, if we could only get a mirror in the Fed’s room where they’re printing all that darn money.

Lindsay
Lindsay
6 years 10 months ago

This is very good to know! I have a problem of procrastinating at work. I know I’m procrastinating, I know I should be working, but it’s more fun to look at lolcats and news. Maybe if I put a mirror in my office, where I can see myself, I will be ashamed to see myself goofing off and proud to see myself working. I will just have a lot of coworkers who think I’m very vain. C’est la vie.

best registry cleaner
6 years 10 months ago

Yes I have always suspected something like this. Even those who consider themselves highly independent and say they don’t care what others think probably still do.

I wonder why we do care so much what people think and how we can virtuously overcome this. What I mean is, it is considered good to think for yourself and yet it does not seem so prevalent in life.

The mind boggles!

Oleg Mokhov
6 years 10 months ago

Hey Ramit,

When we see ourselves doing something or being some way, we think twice and maybe even try to change.

If a kid sees how much candy they’re taking, they start feeling bad for appearing to be greedy, and they only take one.

If someone is fat, when they constantly see their body, they could become less satisfied with their current condition and want to change.

Perhaps everyone should arrange a Real World-style reality show for themselves and their circle of friends, eh? Massive self-improvement in record time 🙂

All the best with the upcoming bootcamp,
Oleg

rackgen
rackgen
6 years 11 months ago

Really intersting sutdy.. thanks for sharing ramit!

JD Ross
6 years 11 months ago

“Since I know many of you are illiterate and only read blogs for information”

That’s not very nice to your readership, is it?

Arun
6 years 11 months ago

A very tempting teaser 🙂

Illiterate
Illiterate
6 years 10 months ago

You have interesting personal finance ideas, and interesting topics, but I’m not willing to stick around while you call me names. Unsubscribing.

Kristen from FiLife
6 years 10 months ago

Hey Ramit,

is boot camp happening in a house of mirrors? sounds like it should!

Kristen

trackback

[…] How to trick dumb kids into eating less Halloween candy from @ramit Makes me ask, have you looked at yourself today?  At the very least, it definitely sounds like a useful trick for those of you with kids.  It just might be more than that though? […]

Lund
Lund
6 years 10 months ago

Poor choice of controls… What happened with mirror only (no verbal warning)?

Snowballer
Snowballer
6 years 10 months ago

See this is IWTYTBR at its best.

The worst, hardest, and best thing you can ever do is look at yourself, what you’re doing at any moment in time, or anything in between.

Artificial accountability mechanisms and self trickery for the win!

prufock
prufock
6 years 10 months ago

You’re about thirty years late to the party.

Kelly
6 years 10 months ago

For some awesome ideas on how to influence your own behavior the same way advertisers do, check out http://www.takebackyourbrain.com/

Lots of ideas on the website about putting up pictures of yourself looking sexy / happy / confident / etc while doing things you want yourself to do.

Marco
Marco
6 years 10 months ago

Nice one, Ramit!

Increase consequence awareness!

Credit Card Chaser
6 years 10 months ago
Haha love the title of this post and I actually didn’t even remember this study until you went into detail and now I actually do remember hearing about this study in a class once (yes, I was one of those people that would work on their laptop during class a lot – even or especially I should say during my MBA lol). I know this isn’t really an exact real life application of this principle but maybe you should print out a bunch of credit card sized pictures of yourself waving your finger in a “tsk, tsk” motion and then… Read more »
Kim - inspirational thoughts
6 years 10 months ago

First of all, the title of this post made me chuckle and intrigued me. I found the article interesting. It reminds me of a similiar technique I use with my employees. I set them up by conveying my thoughts about them. It works. They often live up to the expectations I set, because of how I perceive them.

hahahah Ga
hahahah Ga
10 months 30 days ago

C

children are not dumb. stop calling them names

Xman
Xman
25 days 22 hours ago

Kids are NOT dumb, thank you!

wpDiscuz