Jonah Berger, a 32-year-old Wharton professor, has a new book out about “game mechanics”, titled Contagious.
In an excerpt published at FastCompany, he explains how game mechanics influence our decision-making. He describes a situation in which students at Harvard University chose a $50,000 salary in preference to a $100,000 one. These kids are meant to be clever, aren’t they?
So, the catch with the offer is that in Option A – the $50,000 salary – the students would be paid twice as much as others, who would receive $25,000. In Option B – the $100,000 salary – others would earn $200,000, or twice as much.
Most people chose Option A: to do better than other people, even if it meant taking less. “They chose the option that was worse in absolute terms but better in relative terms,” Berger writes. “Game mechanics help generate social currency because doing well makes us look good.”
It’s something to consider when it is pay review time.