Why do many people with Parkinson's disease develop an addiction? We built a virtual casino to find out

We knew people with Parkinson's disease were at heightened risk of developing addictive behaviours like gambling. Our research gives insight into why this is.From shutterstock.comParkinson’s dis...

Philip Mosley, Research Fellow, Systems Neuroscience Laboratory, QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute - avatar Philip Mosley, Research Fellow, Systems Neuroscience Laboratory, QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute

Up the creek: the $85 million plan to desalinate water for drought relief

The deal to crank up Adelaide’s desalination plant to make more water available to farmers in the drought-stricken Murray-Darling Basin makes no sense.It involves the federal government paying t...

Lin Crase, Professor of Economics and Head of School, University of South Australia - avatar Lin Crase, Professor of Economics and Head of School, University of South Australia

12 simple ways you can reduce bushfire risk to older homes

There are no guarantees in bushfires, but you can improve the odds your house survives a blaze.Photo by Edward Doody, courtesy of Arkin Tilt Architects, Author providedSeventy-five years of Australian...

Douglas Brown, Casual Academic, Western Sydney University - avatar Douglas Brown, Casual Academic, Western Sydney University

Robots with benefits: how sexbots are marketed as companions

Sexbot Emma, from AI Tech, is advertised as a "real AI you can talk to". She offers "warm hugs" and will "feel your feelings".YouTube/ScreenshotWhen thinking of sexbots, companionship might not be the...

Fiona Andreallo, Lecturer in digital culture, University of Sydney - avatar Fiona Andreallo, Lecturer in digital culture, University of Sydney

Holy bin chickens: ancient Egyptians tamed wild ibis for sacrifice

A scene from the Books of the Dead (based at the Egyptian Museum) shows the ibis-headed god Thoth recording the result of "the final judgement".Wasef et al./PLOS ONE, CC BY-SAThese days, not many Auss...

Sally Wasef, Postdoctoral research fellow, Griffith University - avatar Sally Wasef, Postdoctoral research fellow, Griffith University

Sonic havens: how we use music to make ourselves feel at home

Music played through headphones can immerse the listener in a more intimate experience.Stokkete/ShutterstockThe concept of “home” refers to more than bricks and mortar. Just as cities are...

Michael James Walsh, Assistant Professor Social Science, University of Canberra - avatar Michael James Walsh, Assistant Professor Social Science, University of Canberra

Nation-building to 'national shame': the ABC's complex debate over its role as sports broadcaster

ABC once viewed sports coverage as integral to its mission of nation-building. But in recent years, it has grown far more ambivalent about sports.Dean Lewins/AAPThe ABC has announced it will not provi...

Michael Ward, PhD candidate, University of Sydney - avatar Michael Ward, PhD candidate, University of Sydney

How does poor air quality from bushfire smoke affect our health?

New South Wales and Queensland are in the grip of a devastating bushfire emergency, which has tragically resulted in the loss of homes and lives. But the smoke produced can affect many more people not...

Brian Oliver, Research Leader in Respiratory cellular and molecular biology at the Woolcock Institute of Medical Research and Senior Lecturer, School of Medical & Molecular Biosciences, University of Technology Sydney - avatar Brian Oliver, Research Leader in Respiratory cellular and molecular biology at the Woolcock Institute of Medical Research and Senior Lecturer, School of Medical & Molecular Biosciences, University of Technology Sydney

Bushfires can make kids scared and anxious: here are 5 steps to help them cope

More than 600 schools have been closed, and some damaged, in recent days as bushfires rage across Queensland and New South Wales. Some students have been urgently evacuated while in school. People hav...

Toni Noble, Adjunct Professor, Institute for Positive Psychology & Education, Australian Catholic University - avatar Toni Noble, Adjunct Professor, Institute for Positive Psychology & Education, Australian Catholic University

'Like volcanoes on the ranges': how Australian bushfire writing has changed with the climate

Bushfire writing has long been a part of Australian literature. Tales of heroic rescues and bush Christmases describe a time when the fire season was confined only to summer months and Australia&rsqu...

Grace Moore, Senior lecturer in English, the University of Otago, New Zealand, University of Otago - avatar Grace Moore, Senior lecturer in English, the University of Otago, New Zealand, University of Otago

Farmers, murder and the media: getting to the bottom of the city-country divide

Left, farmer Ian Turnbull being who was convicted of murdering compliance officer Glen Turner. Right, Mr Turner's partner Alison McKenzie outside court. Tensions over land clearing can have tragic con...

Tanya M Howard, Senior research fellow, University of New England - avatar Tanya M Howard, Senior research fellow, University of New England

If Australian police officers are allowed to shoot to kill, they should be better trained

There is no clear evidence guns make police safer, but officers feel safer with firearms at their disposal. ShutterstockAustralians woke to the news last weekend that a 19-year-old Warlpiri man had be...

Rick Sarre, Professor of Law and Criminal Justice, University of South Australia - avatar Rick Sarre, Professor of Law and Criminal Justice, University of South Australia

Why municipal waste-to-energy incineration is not the answer to NZ's plastic waste crisis

Since the Chinese plastic recycling market closed, 58% of New Zealand’s plastic waste goes to countries in South-East Asia.from www.shutterstock.com, CC BY-NDNew Zealand is ranked the third-most...

Trisia Farrelly, Senior Lecturer, Massey University - avatar Trisia Farrelly, Senior Lecturer, Massey University

The robbery of the century: the cum-ex trading scandal and why it matters

Cum-ex trading, like a magic trick, involves shares 'disappearing' then 'reappearing' with a new owner to enable two parties to simultaneously claim ownership of the one stock. www.shutterstock.comIt ...

Alex Simpson, Senior Lecturer in Criminology, Macquarie University - avatar Alex Simpson, Senior Lecturer in Criminology, Macquarie University

Ooshies, the plastic collectible toys Australian supermarket chain Woolworths is using to lure shoppers to its aisles, aren’t just a bit of fun.

They’ve been connected to a black market among Woolworths staff, frenzied online trading replete with death threats, chaotic crowds and and feral behaviour at supermarket swap days, and a shocking decapitation live on breakfast television.

The plastic figures, based on characters in Disney’s new movie The Lion King, are aimed for kids but are really intended to sway the shopping habits of parents (you get one for every $30 you spend). They have inspired some very bad adult behaviour – with the worst behaviour arguably that of Woolworths itself.

Read more: It's Sarabi's pride, Mufasa just lives there: a biologist on The Lion King

The Woolworths Group proclaims “family-friendly values”. Just last month it announced it would get out of liquor and pokies. Yet it has targeted children with a manipulative promotion that relies, among other things, on the same psychological triggers that can promote gambling addiction in adults.

Why we collect

Collectible promotions are tried and true. We seem to be hard-wired to collect things.

Some of the seal-impressions from the Ur excavation site. Ur Excavations Vol III

Among the earliest evidence of this human impulse is a large collection of seal-impressions in clay. Made with flat stamps or cylinder seals, they were found during the excavation of the Ziggarut of Ur, in modern-day Iraq, and date from 5th or 4th century BCE.

An estimated 30% of the population collect something, according to noted consumer behaviour expert Russell Belk. Among children, collecting is even more common. In one study, University of Nebraska researchers Menzel Baker and James Gentry interviewed 79 primary-school students and found 72 (more than 90%) had some kind of collection.

Across generations, items commonly collected include rocks, shells, eggs, stamps, coins, sports cards and figurines.

Collecting is connected to children’s natural curiosity. It’s a process of making sense of things through gathering and categorising. This can be seen in the enjoyment children get from counting and subdividing their collections into categories. Young children typically care more about the quantity of their collection than aesthetic considerations.

As they get older, more subjective values develop. Quantity becomes less important. This is what ultimately distinguishes the psychological motivation to collect from the compulsion to hoard, in which one is incapable of making an emotional distinction between what is valuable and what is junk.

Commercialising collecting

So tending to a collection can be both enjoyable and educational. Coins or stamps, for example, can spark an interest in geography, history and other cultures.

But there are aspects that also make the urge to collect exploitable by marketers.

One is the way things form part of what psychologists call the “extended self”. As Russell Belk explained in his 1988 paper on Possessions and the Extended Self: “We cannot hope to understand consumer behaviour without first gaining some understanding of the meanings that consumers attach to possessions. A key to understanding what possessions mean is recognising that, knowingly or unknowmgly, intentionally or unintentionally, we regard our possessions as parts of ourselves.”

The extended self’s manifestation in possessions is particularly striking in young children, who take great comfort from favourite dolls, bears and the like.

Read more: Why and how retailers turn everyday items into 'must-have' collectables

Gambling for kids

Another unpalatable aspect that businesses exploit in marketing to children is the “thrill of the hunt” through the use of so-called “blind bags”.

An astounding range of toys are based on the child not knowing what they are going to get until they open it.

This practice makes use of intermittent reinforcement. When the outcome is uncertain, the process is much more exciting and a desired result much more pleasurable. It’s the same neurological mechanism that makes gambling so addictive.

Blind bags are highly conducive to marketers pushing sales through the scarcity principle, which makes some toys “more valuable”. In the case of the Ooshies, there are 24 different toys produced in different quantities. Some are very rare – there are just 100 “furry Simbas”, for example.

The furry Simba. Woolworths

This can inspire strong fears of missing out in child peer groups, putting pressure on parents to secure missing toys.

Shameless targeting

Finally, younger children are innocent to the cynical ways of the world. They do not necessarily understand the persuasive intent of such sales promotions. Children, even adolescents, don’t necessarily have the cognitive skills to recognise the manipulative aspects. They are the soft target. As one mother of three has put it: “Like most, I hate the fact they’re exploiting our children, but at the end of the day my kids love The Lion King…”

For these reasons we believe the ethics of specifically targeting children with a collectibles promotional campaign are questionable – and the Ooshies promotion is unashamedly directed at children.

If Woolworths wants to celebrate family-friendly values, this is not the way to go about it.

Authors: The Conversation

Read more http://theconversation.com/ooshies-a-cautionary-toy-story-about-cashing-in-on-childhood-innocence-121564