I Bet You Can’t Eat Just One, Now Can You…

What Compulsion Is Running Through Your Brain?

The Lays Potato Chip commercial, even as a child struck me as pure marketing genius as it does a double duty wham-o on our psyche by first telling us we can’t do something thus placing the “lizard brain” (medically referred to as the corpus amygdaloideum)  in a defensive mode to show you a thing or two.  All the while feeding a “compulsion loop” within us, as the concept of the “lizard brain” is talked about frequently in the popular press however the concept of the “compulsion loop” isn’t and in fact seems to still be one of those Madison Avenue secrets so worthy of some discussion.

As a compulsion is “a thing that a person must do” in order to achieve something, usually the motivation will be to achieve “something” to yield rewards which can be either physical or psychological in nature.  However we can expand upon the psychological component of achievement as it also offers a way for people to communicate with one another about their “accomplishments” as this provides for a “reason” to communicate.  As accomplishments or attainments also serves an evidential function too in the compulsion dance, since they provide people a way of “verifying” their acts during social encounters.

So when achievements are doled out incrementally where a person gets little rewards every time they do something (like eating a potato chip), they’re continually motivated to act. Therefore they not only engage more with an activity, and as they do so.  They also barter, exchange and discuss the activity leading to the achievement, be-it a college degree or the savory taste of a fresh potato chip melting in their mouth which they enjoy.

This cycle is called the compulsion loop: as it will drive a person to continuing the activity, “continually” seeking achievements and therefore completing repeated micro-transactions (eating a chip for example as you can’t eat just one) in the process.  Here it’s important to understanding the social mechanics which surround micro-transactions as the goal is to award the person with granular achievements when they do something fairly low-risk or for small amounts of investment (time or money) and get them hooked into the loop, so they will do it repeatedly.   Here gaming establishments are king of the hill with penny and nickel slots as the goal is to get you to “pull the handle” then work you up the chain to bigger and better things. As its the age old physics law around the conservation of motion which says “an object at rest tends to stay at rest, while an object in motion tends to stay in motion” means the goal is simply to get you to do something and the rest is downhill.

Also, it is difficult for businesses to determine accurately “what will sell” in a product, therefore building toward a compulsion loop is a better way to approach defining purchase motivation rather than try to understand it.  As It’s easier for businesses to try to determine “what people love to do”, as in the slot example the repeated anticipation of winning is more important than if images of cherries or cars spin on the wheels . In the end many products and service simply sell as the mechanics works, because ultimately, all things resolve themselves down to the compulsion loop be it a car for the feel of the ride to that of a savory deep fried potato chip…

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About Joseph Campbell

As a strong believer in the fact that "people work for people", it has been a life driver to better to understand the complexities of the various aspects which drive efficiency within this axiom, especially the concepts of leadership. Supporting this, I have been fortunate enough to having experienced this as leader on a global basis over the last decade and half. During this time it has been clear there are three core drivers being Life, Leadership and Economics.
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