Use the endowment effect to make learning stick

Use the endowment effect to make learning stick

Use the endowment effect to make learning stick

What is the endowment effect and how can we use it to make learning stick?

The endowment effect explains the fact that people attach more value to things merely because they own them. The ‘endowment effect’ was identified by Richard Thaler in 1980.

The endowment effect has been tested by verifying that people tend to pay more to keep ownership of something they own than to obtain something owned by someone else. This applies even if there is no logical reason for the attachment, and even if the item has only just become theirs.

Here’s the relationship with learning. Ownership creates emotional engagement. So when learners own their development opportunities – either formal or informal – their emotional relationship has relevance. And the learning sticks!

So how can we facilitate learning that sticks? By doing all we can to help the learning participants are just that. Participants, or architects, of their learning. By engaging the learners’ hearts and minds. And not by treating learners as passive recipients, or, empty vessels to be filled by ‘training’.

The endowment effect can help make learning stick by:

  • focusing on the benefits / outcomes – this means listening to our learners!
  • involving learners in the learning scoping and needs analysis processes. This creates ownership – and again means consulting with learners!
  • facilitating learners conclusion that change and development really matters – to them
  • remembering that changed behaviours (after learning) depend on positive attitudes / mindsets (before learning)
  • exploring learner’s motivations; their ‘why’ – this means listening!
  • giving learners control over what, when and how they learn

In other words; ensuring that there is an active engagement and anticipation or buzz about learning. The medium – face to face, mobile, e-learning – makes no difference. Ownership is key.

The bottom line is that we are primarily emotional rather rational beings. This is why people behave with a herd mentality / jump on a bandwagon and show a confirmation bias (search for or interpret information in a way that confirms their preconceptions).

So the key message is: engage emotional beings at an emotional level. Make sure you use the endowment effect to make learning stick!