Operant Conditioning: We’re addicted to email

We all know that email is a horrible, unproductive distraction to the work we really need to get done. And yet we can’t live without it. In fact, studies show that people who think they check email once an hour were actually checking every five minutes.

We’re addicted to checking email because of something called operant conditioning, a learning process where behavior is controlled by consequences: open Outlook, get a new message.

Over at the HubSpot blog, Neil Patel goes deep into the cognitive biases that light up our brains every time we hear that “You’ve Got Mail,” and how marketers can use that knowledge to really delight email subscribers with our messages.

Here are three of the most interesting insights:

  • Checking email is a distraction. Try to position your message—especially your subject line—to assure them it won’t take much of their time.
  • Checking email is often procrastination. Make your emails short and scannable with a clear call to action so they feel a sense of accomplishment.
  • Checking email can be a letdown. Improve their sense of well-being by making them feel awesome for reading your email.

Read the post, “The Psychology of Checking Your Email” for more tips, including why time-of-day tests for email may be a waste of time.

If you want to chat about the fascinating ways cognitive biases can better marketing, contact me at mneigh@masterworks.agency.