The Fallacy of the Maturity of Chances

My aunt and uncle called the other day; they were excited to take another weekend trip to spend some quality time at the casinos. They like gambling, me as a psychologist; I can’t get into it, the lights, the chips, the subtle cues to make you forget you are spending real money. Every chip I see a steak dinner or a bottle of wine, better yet I see the event; an entire evening with my beautiful wife, enjoying a fantastic dinner as a bottle of brooding cabernet decants. Therefore gambling is one of the vices I need not worry about. However the sounds of the slot machine got me to thinking about behavior modification. What does one have to do with the other? That is a great question – allow me the pleasure to explain:

For many years, I spend my life implementing training and incentive systems around the world. One of my favorite little “tricks” was, as we toured the call center floor, I would keep my ears open for two things: 1) Someone completing a sale, and 2) How they sounded doing it. When that happened the magic show would begin, I would stop the parade of local executives dressed up and praying that nothing embarrassing happened. I would put on my astonished face and voice to match. Then I would loudly say “I can’t help but stop and compliment you on that call, I heard you go the sale, but you know why? Because your voice was like velvet, you controlled your pace and tone and were excited to help the customer. You should be on the overnight jazz station with that voice, but please don’t quit here.” Then I would get back the group and keep walking.

What did I leave in my wake, besides some thrilled executives, was a highly motivated staff from a seemingly random reward. Asking people to use their “sales” voice or to talk slower, or to just sound excited, never works like you’d expect. In fact, it usually backfires. As I walked away, the agent was glowing in the recognition that a visitor from the “client” and all of management saw them get publicly recognized. The agent received random reinforcement (or seemingly random) about how great their voice was. Psychologists have known for years that Random-Positive rewards are the most (by far) addictive rewards that exist. The agent is like going to practice their DJ voice, and continue to work on improving it. He or she will tirelessly repeat that desired behavior to get another compliment. Not only that, but that motivation is contagious. Every agent that saw and experienced that random reinforcement will now be practicing their “DJ” voice, and so will every person that those folks tell, it is an exponential explosion of practicing desired behaviors (and it cost the company absolutely nothing but 30 seconds.

Now the practice of rewarding the other employees is the task of the managers and supervisors, but that is a conversation we had away from the sales floor. If you want to modify behaviors, slip a random reward into the mix and watch the magic. If you don’t believe me; think about all the people in casinos playing the slot machines. They lost this spin, so they put in another dollar (the desired behavior of a casino) they keep trying and then random rewards – they hear bells, see lights and receive more fake chips. No reward is more addictive that random reinforcement, you have seen it in action for yourself and even experienced it (we don’t judge). The fallacy of the maturity of chances is otherwise known as the gambler’s Fallacy, the more you repeat a behavior and fail, your brain tells you the odds of winning the next time increase (they don’t, and they never will)

Want to use the power of applied behavioral psychology for good? Do you want to make your business a better place and become truly an employer of choice? Then throw the dice and ask how Award Concepts can help motivate and stimulate your bottom line, I’m betting you will love the pay-off.

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