Brain scans show the power of positive thinking for achieving savings goals

Brain scans show the power of positive thinking for achieving savings goals

A ground-breaking neuroscience study commissioned by Standard Life shows that positive and helpful communication about long term saving stimulates dopamine and can in turn encourage the "love hormone" oxytocin, making people feel happier and more likely to engage positively with savings.

The research, conducted by neuroscience research agency Mindlab and appraised by Cognitive Neuroscientist Dr Lynda Shaw, used both electroencephalography (EEG) techniques within a lab environment and a benchmarking questionnaire to assess the relationship between savings and emotions.

It was found that presenting information about retirement in a positive tone, highlighting practical steps for finding out more information or taking action could help people to feel more motivated and positive about the future. Conversely, adopting a negative tone - or fear factor - was least likely to help people, particularly where guidance on what to do next was not included.

Findings also suggest that positively toned and helpful communications about long term savings stimulate the hormone dopamine, reducing anxiety, and encourage production of oxytocin leading to feelings of happiness.

Stephen Ingledew, managing director, customer & marketing at Standard Life, says: "Insights from psychology and behavioural economics tell us that the decisions people make are not always rational, and that emotions play an important role. This is something that other sectors, such as retail, understand and have been researching for some time."

Just last month, Bank of New Zealand added a new tool to its Website called EmotionScan, which uses advanced facial recognition software to help customers explore their emotional attachment to their personal finances. It's the first time the software has been used to gauge people's emotional response to their financial situation. It was initially developed to help with researching consumer reactions to advertisements and new product development ideas.

Says Ingledew: "We believe that growing our understanding of emotions will improve how we talk to people about savings, which in turn will help them feel more able to take action and achieve their future aspirations, and mean they feel happier too."

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