The Irrational Self: Making Decisions in a World of Social Value

Mohamed Islam Makram Hillal Abdo & Julian Theodor Thiele Rønnow Berg

Student thesis: Master thesis


This thesis explores the nature of irrational purchase behaviour, focusing on specific sets of observed behaviour, which at the time of writing cannot be explained by any single contemporary theory. This thesis is using the online video game SMITE as a case, in order of scrutinising the matter in depth rather than on a general level. The behaviour observed in the case of SMITE relates to in-game purchases of virtual cosmetics which represent no advantages to the purchasers, not even in terms of gameplay. The thesis analyses this case by applying theories from the fields of neuroscience, psychology, and marketing, focusing on human needs and decision-making. The theories are combined holistically in order of producing a possible explanation for the observed behaviour. Primary data is gathered in two ways: an online questionnaire; and an experiment monitoring physical reactions to interacting with the game. The online questionnaire gathered insights about the users of SMITE, such as demographics, purchase behaviour, and preferences related to virtual cosmetics. The experiment took advantage of heart rate monitoring and eye-tracking to unfold the physical reactions of SMITE users when using these virtual cosmetics. The questionnaire showed that a significant majority of SMITE users spend a large amount of time and money on the game, and that the game is used as a mean of engaging in social interaction. The experiment showed that while playing the game has a large impact on heart rate in general, using these virtual cosmetics do not significantly impact heart rate. Furthermore, the eye-tracking data showed that SMITE players pay much attention to the displays of virtual cosmetics of other users. The collected data suggests that SMITE may be used as an alternative to regular social interaction, and that virtual cosmetics have an important role in the users’ ability to display their identities in the game. The results also show that the value of the virtual cosmetics available in SMITE lies in improving the social experience had during the game. Finally, the results suggest that SMITE is designed in a way that leads to compulsive behaviour in some users, in terms of the amount of hours and money spent on the game. These findings imply that the developers of video games following a business model based on virtual cosmetics should put more emphasis on these cosmetics, and allow them to be a facilitator of the social interaction that appears to be so important for the users. Finally, the thesis suggests that the methods used to analyse and explain this irrational behaviour could successfully be applied to behaviour associated with other industries.

EducationsCand.merc.smc Strategic Market Creation, (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
Publication date2016
Number of pages156