Continuing the TV theme of the previous blog, why did my wife and I watch ‘Raised by Wolves’, all the way through to the end, when we started thinking it wasn’t that great after about 2/3 episodes?

More recently, we watched ‘Losing Alice’ on Apple TV. Originally it sucked us in because it had a really good thumbnail image and description and we’d heard that Apple TV did really good series.

So, with high hopes, we watched episode one and it provided just enough to keep our attention. A couple of episodes in it wasn’t quite living up to our expectations, but still we continued to watch it.

Why is that?

Well, we’d made a choice and a commitment. We’d chosen it as something to watch above other things, because our previous experience of a series on Apple TV was good, and because ‘Losing Alice’ featured an actress we liked.

After 3 or 4 episodes we thought that it was just about good enough, partly because we kept hoping it would get better but mainly because we’d made the commitment. After 4/5 episodes, we knew we’d watch it all because we were too committed to give up. Also, there was a little bit of ‘what if we abandon it and then it becomes great’?

So, we carried on to the end. It was ok, it didn’t become great, but we saw it through.

The key point is that we kept going because if, after getting 4/5 episodes in, we’d decided not to finish it then it would invalidate the time we’d spent watching so far and no-one wants to think that they’ve made a poor choice and wasted their time.

The psychological principle here is that people make decisions because it’s consistent with their previous behaviour.

An instance of this was shown by some research carried out using the example of trying to get people in a town to pick up litter.

About 2 weeks before the scheduled litter-pick, researchers went to various residents and asked them whether they loved their town and whether they consider themselves to be socially responsible.

About 2 weeks later they went round again asking people whether they would be willing to spend an hour the following Saturday picking up litter. Everyone who had previously said that they loved their town and thought themselves socially responsible said yes.

The success rate dramatically increased with those people because they wanted to behave in a way that was consistent – they’d said that they loved their town and were socially responsible, and 2 weeks later they could prove it.

In marketing people behave in ways that are consistent with their belief and previous behaviour, so they stick with something – even when it’s not necessarily in their best interest – simply because they’ve done it before. Just as with a TV series that you watch to the end even though you don’t really think it’s very good. You’ve made a commitment and giving up on it clashes with your self-image of being someone who doesn’t give up.

Another interesting point is that the more people you mention it to, the more likely you are to see it through.