Humans love nothing more than feedback. You've seen kids in an elevator that just want to push every button because it lights up. That's enough for the kid. They just want some kind of feedback, they don't even care what that feedback is a lot of the time. But humans love getting something back from the environment. We really respond very sensitively to feedback.
And here's a great example of this. This is from Reddit. Some of you may know the website Reddit.
It's basically a community of people who go to sub-pages and the sub-pages focus on different things. If you like cats, there'll be a page with funny cats, and they'll be sorted by, like, most funny to least funny cat, and so on. So this is Reddit. Now, one of the pages on April 1st, 2015 just popped up out of nowhere, was called The Button.
The button worked like this: what you have is the button and you have a timer that counts down from a minute. It starts at sixty seconds and it counts down. And every time someone pushes the button somewhere in the world, one of the hundreds of thousands of users of Reddit, the counter starts at sixty again. And once you push the button, you get a little badge. You can only push it once, and your badge color is determined by how low the number is when you push.
So in the beginning, when they first released it, it was going down to 59 seconds and then someone in the world would push it. And eventually a lot of people had pushed it, so it went down a little further, 58, 57, 56. It gave you nothing.
You get nothing for pushing this button, but people pushed it, and they didn't just push it, they sat there and they watched this button for seven weeks. Which is staggering! Because what happened was, as the number counted down, they got different badge colors, so if you pushed it between 52 and 60 seconds, you got a purple badge, and people made fun of you, because they called you impatient. And you can see here the percentage of people who clicked and got the different badges, and also the first date on which you could earn each badge. So the first person to earn the purple badge was obviously the first of April.
The next day you could get between 42 and 51 seconds, because the herd had thinned out. By April 4th, it was 32-41 seconds, and so on. Until on May 18th, we're talking about seven weeks later, there's a guy named Big Goran, that was his username on Reddit. He pushed the button last, and he was a massive celebrity.
People celebrated Big Goran, they asked him questions like "How did you do it?" and "What was it that made you the holder of the chalice of the final presser, the key to this whole mystery?" And he said "I wanted to know more than anything what would happen if I waited until the end, so I waited till I thought I'd be the last presser. Because when he pressed it, it went to 60, and then it ticked down to zero. So he was the last one. And there were also people who never pressed it, and they were deeply frustrated because they thought they'd get some reward for holding out.
But Big Goran said, "So I pressed it, and I wanted to be the last person because I thought Reddit would, like, throw money at me or something." There was nothing. This whole exercise was a big joke on the part of Reddit. Because they know that people just like feedback, they like pressing buttons. And so Reddit pressed their buttons, and it was very effective. Now, as a business move, this is a sort of weird example, but it's very effective generally to do this, and we know this from lots of examples.
We know this from animal behavior studies. So if you put a pigeon in front of a little light, and you let the pigeon peck to get food, there are different ways you can do this. You can get the pigeon to peck, say, every ten pecks will give it a pellet of food. So it sits there and pecks ten times, the food comes out, it eats the food. It gets hungry, it pecks ten more times.