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[The importance of spill-over effects]

Q: How do you make chocolate taste sweeter? A: You make the blocks round! (Rory Sutherland – Psychology of Digital Marketing [27:00]). This is a perfect example of a spill-over effect. Here we clearly have a case of mental association, but what is interesting for me is how a certain quality (shape) colours our perception of another, completely unrelated one (taste). Here are some more examples. Try guessing the answers before looking at the key:

  1. How can you make wine taste better?
  2. How can you increase the effectiveness of painkillers?
  3. How can you enhance the flavour of restaurant food?
  4. How can you reduce the ‘pain of paying’?
  5. How can you make someone appear taller?
  6. How can you make someone warm up towards a stranger?

OK – time is up! Here are the answers:  1) pour it from a heavier bottle;   2) increase the price of the pills;  3) use calligraphic font in the menu;  4) get people to pay by credit card;  5) tell people s/he is a University Professor;  6) give them a hot cup of coffee to hold before introducing them to that person.

It’s like magic, isn’t it? Well, you may be surprised to hear that Psychology has revealed a number of similar effects that can be useful to us teachers. Once again, let us see whether you can get the ‘right’ answers:

  1. How can you make an activity more interesting?
  2. How can you make a session more memorable?
  3. How can you improve the students’ evaluation of the lesson?

Naturally, there are a number of ways of getting these results, but here are some possible answers – did you get any?:  1) use game mechanics: teams – scoreboards – time pressure etc. (gamification!);  2) include an emotional element (e.g. a story, a song or an ad);  3) make sure you end with a bang (e.g. a joke, a quote or a fun activity).

‘Ah’ you might ask ‘but how can I get the students to like the whole course?’ Well, there are answers to this question too – at least three of them:  i) be likeable;  ii) be interesting or, if you cannot manage these…. iii) be beautiful. 😊

The Moral: Use spill-over effects to enhance your lessons.