Various experiments have shown that we hate losing twice as much as we love winning. This fear of loss has a major impact on the choices we make. It also means people will work harder, and risk more, to avoid losing something than they will to gain something.
People were presented with four options about the toss of a coin, each of which would see them losing £10 if they called it wrong. Offered £10 for a win (ie a 50:50 bet), very few were prepared to play. Even if they could win £15, the risk of losing £10 was too great. Only at £20 for a win versus £10 for a loss were most people prepared to start playing.
Making it live
When we made a government video designed to reduce teenage pregnancy, our behavioural insights led us to focus on fear of loss rather than the hope of gain. Targeting young men, we asked “What would you do differently if it was teenage boys that got pregnant?” Most of them laughed nervously, before saying …”No way!”