McDonald's & others are using psychological tactics that worry experts

A lot of fast-food apps have started using ‘casino’ tactics akin to gambling. Here’s why experts find this very concerning.

McDonald's & others using psychological tactics that worry experts for this reason
© Smith Collection/Gado
McDonald's & others using psychological tactics that worry experts for this reason

It is by now no secret that many fast-food companies as well as restaurants use different psychological tactics which make consumers spend more money than they would have otherwise. While these tactics can be avoided once you are made aware of them, psychological tactics which can trigger addictive behaviour can be more difficult to get rid of.

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As reported by ABC News, with many fast-food companies now trying to get people to use their exclusive apps, some of these companies have started employing tactics whose purpose is to hook customers onto the app and keep them spending more and more money, just as in the case of casinos.

Gambling tactics can hook customers to spend more on food apps d3sign

Some of the techniques that are successful in producing addictive behaviour in customers in casinos include vibrating machines, spinning jackpots, pressing slot machines etc.

The dangers of random intermittent reinforcement

As per Stephen Bright, a psychologist and senior lecturer of addiction at Edith Cowan University, Australia, these tricks can lead people to be addicted through the psychological phenomenon of random intermittent reinforcement, where people feel rewarded for doing a particular action like pulling a lever, pressing a button or even spinning a wheel.

Apps such as Hungry Jacks have started encouraging customers to participate in actions such as shaking their devices to win a free menu item or as stated by the report, in the case of McDonald’s, peeling off stickers to reveal prizes they won randomly.

There is a need for government regulation on apps using such 'casino' like tactics d3sign

Need for government regulations

Dr. Bright points out the similarities between these fast-food apps’ tactics and poker machines,

They're trying to provide lots of sensory input through the vibration of the phone, the noises it makes, so you're triggered to go back into the app.
The use of that is similar to the way poker machines are set up, where people don't know when they're going to win next.

The psychologist has underlined the need for government regulations on apps which employ such tactics. Dr Bright says,

We don't really have any regulation over how these apps are built, what features they can contain and how much they can leverage about what we know about psychology to hold a person's attention.
There must be ways of regulating these sorts of technologies around age limits.

Sources used:

ABC News: ‘Hungry Jack's, McDonald's apps using 'casino' tactics may encourage unhealthy habits, expert says’

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