The Advertising Effect: Adam Ferrier’s Masterpiece on Behavioural Economics

A quick glance at Adam Ferrier’s twitter leaves little doubt that he would be considered a US conservative. That doesn’t mean his work is not accurate. His book, The Advertising Effect: How to Change Behaviour, contains almost everything I learned in 1000-2000 Psychology and Sociology classes for $27. That’s about $20,000 of college classes for $27. It covers several classic studies, is well cited and entertaining. It’s a great read and a better listen on audio book.

Previously, I covered human nature according to Judaism, Christianity and Evolutionary Psychology(EP). We’re all motivated by self-interest. Ferrier provides the Behaviour Framing Grid to help understand where self-interest falls in decision making. The image below is from a great summary at Digital Intelligence Today.


Ferrier cites Fishbein in stating three conditions that are “necessary and sufficient for adopting a behavior”:

  1. One’s motivation.
  2. One’s “ability to perform the behaviour”.
  3. If one has the opportunity to perform the behaviour.

As the Behaviour Framing Grid shows, the more motivated (individual incentives +social norms) and the easier (ability+opportunity) it is for one to act, the more likely one is to act. Ferrier sums up individual incentives as asking, “What’s in it for me?” He also understands that humans are social, so social norms play into motivation. However, pro-social behavior is just another way of sustaining one’s self, thus selfish. The desire to have approval of others is an individual incentive. Ferrier’s point is that the if others’ approve of a behaviour, the more likely one is do that behaviour.

Ease is of ability + opportunity and at times better understood as ability – obstacles. There are countless kids that are motivated to be NBA players and every few NBA players. Having athletic ability to perform at an NBA level is obviously a requirement to play in the NBA as is the NBA existing in the first place for anyone to have the opportunity to play in it.

All of it makes perfect sense. Bill Gates was more likely to go into computing than pro-basketball because he had more computing ability. He also had opportunity to use computers, his parents bought computers for their son’s school, according to Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers. What would you find more motivating, something you have ability to do and access, or something you’re not as good at and have little access? Gates was likely more motivated toward computing. He had acceptance from his parents and a social group to code with. He was later offered a job coding in high school, another individual incentive.

What motivates people go back to alcohol? It seems many ask why people do something; the more accurate question is why not? Alcohol use can feel good and comes with a social group that, in many cases, is stronger than the stigma of alcohol abuse. Ease can also be high. Alcohol is readily available, and easy to use. Sometimes Ease is better described as ability – obstacles.

Let’s use the framing grid on PPACA (Obamacare). What are the individual incentives for using government healthcare? What is the public opinion of using government healthcare? How much ability does one have to have to use government healthcare? How much opportunity does one have to use government healthcare?

What’s in it for the one?

Why not use it?

It seems Ferrier’s Behaviour Framing Grid and Milton Friedman’s perspective on government programs are congruent. Government programs are likely to expand.

Ferrier’s book is fun, provides great information critical for understand our zeitgeist,  examines questions we all should and makes:

  • Can behaviour change professionals really change behavior?
  • If they can how ethical is the practice?
  • If not, how can Psychologists charge for the service?
  • “Today’s consumer is marketing saturated, not marketing savvy.”
  • Action changes attitude faster than attitude changes action.

Much of the coming pieces on this little blog will use the Behaviour Framing Grid as part of the lens to view politics, philosophy and economics(duh). I haven’t even touched the action spurs and Cognitive Behavior Therapy(CBT). Here’s what’s coming this year based on this idea:

  • Collectivism: The Great Evil of Our Time
  • NBEconomics: Micheal, Magic, Bird and Nash’s Equilibrium
  • Love, Agape, and Altruism

We’ll cover the action spurs as well. More on the way.



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