EMC² Blog

Bring the Luck of the Irish Into Your Classroom

Luck is a funny thing.

Have you ever received one of those customer loyalty cards where you collect stamps or hole punches and get one step closer to scoring a free sandwich or a car wash? In 2004, a pair of researchers from opposite ends of the United States put their heads together to see if they could determine what makes the brain science behind these customer loyalty type promotions so addictive. And it turns out there’s some serious psychology at work beneath the surface when we’re feeling all those positive chemicals associated with beginner’s luck. So in the March 2006 issue of the Journal of Customer Research, Joseph Nunes from the University of Southern California’s Marshall School of Business and Xavier Dreze from The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania published their results. What they found is a brilliant psychological sleight of hand that also just so happens to provide some serious implications when it comes to designing classroom activities that really capture our students’ attentions (and imaginations)!

It’s called the Endowed Progress Effect. And it works like a charm. 

Over the course of two Saturdays in June, two different groups of customers at a local car wash were randomly given a total of 300 loyalty cards. One group was given a loyalty card with eight blank squares. The other group was given a loyalty card with 10 squares — the first two of which were automatically stamped for them as freebies. Both groups were then told that they’d receive a free car wash if they were able to collect enough stamps to complete their card. But by the time the study was over nine months later, the second group had completed stamps for each of the remaining squares on their card at a jaw-dropping rate of 82% higher than the first group!

Beginner's Luck Or Savvy Psychology?

The trick of it all? Both groups had effectively been handed cards with 8 squares left to complete. But once you start seeing yourself making progress (even if the books are cooked to help you get that initial boost of momentum), you’re that much more likely to continue moving forward.

It’s the same reason why casinos will offer guests $100 in free chips just for showing up. Why video games like World of Warcraft provide players with a clear visual checklist of all the missions they’ve completed to date. Why board games like Pandemic or Ticket To Ride have a massive sort of “doomsday clock” mechanic built in where all players are constantly aware that the game is only just a few turns away from reaching its final round. Or why websites like LinkedIn and Facebook (or in the classroom, online surveys and Google Forms) typically include those tiny on screen progress bars to let you know that you are (x)% of the way through completing the form just by filling out your name. It’s almost like they trick you into working harder! At every step, leveraging all the good vibes that come from experiencing a sense of beginner’s luck like it was some sort of micro-achievement as if to say…

“See? That wasn’t so hard, now was it?! You’re almost there!”

To help teachers capture this same degree of forward momentum in their classrooms, we here at EMC² Learning have proudly woven a whole bunch of psychological magic like the Endowed Progress Effect into each of the gamified resources we’ve created that are available on our platform for St. Patrick’s Day and beyond. Each activity is fully editable for any course or content area. And once you’ve unlocked the secret of clever dopamine hacks like the Endowed Progress Effect, there truly is no limit to the number of creative lessons that you’ll soon begin to start dreaming up in your lesson planning.

All you’ll need to start playing along is an annual site membership! Now if only there were some sort of sale going on…

Oh wait. You’re in luck 🙂

(See how we just Jedi mind tricked you right there? Endowed Progress Effect for the win!)

EMC² Learning is home to more than 500 fully editable resources for any course or content area. Engagement Engineers and members of the Creative Corps enjoy a full year of access to each of these resources on demand. We hope you’ll consider joining us to unlock a full year of site access. For complete details including our exclusive limited time offer for annual site membership, click here.

"This site is a total game changer for both me and my students! Thanks for all the ways you level up my learning and classroom."
Carol McLaughlin
1-8 Teacher

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