Apple All-Day Battery Psychological Illusion

Apple Inc. is possibly one of the best companies in marketing. To some extend I believe its effectiveness could generate an illusion on its consumers, causing a Halo Effect (E. Thorndike) around its product.

Why am I saying this? Look at the picture below or watch Apple’s WWDC keynote on the new Macbook Air: http://www.apple.com/uk/apple-events/june-2013/

Apple Keynote (2)      Apple Keynote (1)

I am wondering how many people actually spot the illusion in this presentation? Yes, it’s the all-day battery life! The Macbook Air 13-inch delivers only 12 hours battery life, and we get 24 hours in a day, so how could Philip Schiller (Senior VP, Apple), claim this statement successfully, and even get the whole audience to cheer for him?

Just to be clear, I am writing here not because I am trying to turn this into a joke, (I myself had bought this version of Macbook Air, as you can see, I love this product as well!), but there is just something fascinating about our mind that worth exploring around this matter.

At WWDC, all those audiences were developer, working for big companies, adults etc., so a fully grown up person, how did no one in the crowd spotted this error, instead they embraced this idea. Aren’t we all know we have 24 hours a day?

I have to be honest, I did fall into this illusion as I first saw the Macbook keynote, at that moment, I was like, “wow, all-day battery? That’s amazing!” And yet, I did not spot this error immediately.

So why? The simplest explanation is that we spend most of our day sleeping, and typically 12 hours is our maximum working hour. However, if the answer is this simple, there will be no point talking about it right?

Therefore, here are some real reasons that I could think of:

System 2 Thinking is lazy

In Daniel Kahneman’s book (Thinking Fast and Slow) explained that our brain has 2 systems, automatic and reflective system. Our automatic system is quick and it does things automatically, known as System 1, like walking, breathing, driving etc., all these events are controlled by our system 1 thinking, as they can be done without thinking. And our reflective system, i.e. system 2 is slow; it requires effort and concentration, like mathematical calculation. Our brain does not engage with our system 2 in most of our daily life, and when our system 2 is not functioning, then it is very likely that we could not detect the error in a statement.

For example: “A bat and a ball together cost $1.10. The bat costs $1 more than the ball. How much does the ball cost?” In this experiment, many participants answered $0.10, but the correct answer is $0.05. So why do we make an error like this? Well, one explanation is that most of us just divides the sum into 2 parts, larger sum and smaller sum, without using our reflective system to check the calculation.

This is exactly what happened here. When Philip Schiller mentioned about the all-day battery statement before showing us the new Macbook Air’s battery life, at this point, we automatically take this statement as true, believing the new Macbook is going to have an all-day battery life. Once we believe something is true, we will then be very less likely to revise the further statement. Therefore, even when we saw the new Macbook Air could have up to 12 hours of battery life, we would fail to realise the contradiction within that statement.

Commitment and Consistency

When people committee to an action, they will live up to it, no matter right or wrong. For example, don’t you realise when you are writing an essay, your first draft is very likely to be your final draft? As when you were told to delete some sentences, you would find it hard to do so? As Robert Cialdini noticed, when people are agree to an action, they will continue to honour that statement.  So how is this related to this situation?

At the beginning, Tim Cook, Apple CEO mentioned, all the tickets to the WWDC sold out in 71 seconds, so you have to be a real ‘die hard’ Apple’s fan to buy this ticket so quickly. When a person can show this kind of commitment to a brand or company, how likely is it for them to question about the accuracy or quality of their product?

Authority and Social Proof

Authority is very effective form of persuasion. As in Stanley Milgram’s obedience experiment (1961), it illustrated that an experimenter acting as an authority figure could pressure the participant to harm another human being. And in this situation, Philip Schiller is senior vice-president at Apple, so with a person this powerful, who would stand up and tell him, that he made an error in his statement? Hence most people just listen to his presentation without even thinking about what is right and wrong. On top of that, with over a thousand people not stating the error, how likely are you going to put your hand up and say, ‘excuse me….’?

In conclusion, with all these factors in place, of course Philip Schiller can persuade us that 12 hours equals all-day, therefore, the key about persuasion here is that first people are lazy, and with people’s commitment to the Apple’s brand and having an authority figure to deliver this speech, of course many people will be easily influenced.