Saturday, February 15, 2014

Changing Behaviour That Works - And It Isn't What You'd Think.

Are the things we think we know are true about how change works giving us the opposite of the results we would like to see?

Maybe so.

Jeni Cross is a sociology professor at Colorado State University. 

So to run down, the three myths in the video are:

 Myth 1 Education changes behaviour 

Changing expectations changes behaviour.

Example: Want to change behaviour? 

Change expectations.  If you want to get them to take action say it is cracks around windows letting heat out and cold in, it worked better to promote energy conservation.  

16 little cracks  don't seem much as they do compared to one crack 16x bigger! Now that gets attention when we can see this big hole letting heat we are paying for, pour out. 

How you present information makes a difference 

Tailor the message to the segment. 

Example: Problems stemming from alcohol abuse. 

Require a different message for different segments.  What is true for heavy drinkers is not true for 

light drinkers - so they need a different message that relates to their experience. 

Consider random breath testing. This changed behaviour. Not because of education but because there are 
penalties for getting caught over the blood alcohol limit. 

Myth 2   Changing attitudes changes behaviour

Setting up expectations helps change behaviour - turning the light off

Changing habits changes behaviour.  When the rules of the house are to turn off the light when you are not in the house, this is easy to comply with. You don't need to change your attitude, you just need to conform to the rule. You don't have to even like it - just do it. 

Changing attitudes is hard! Words have different meanings for people. 
For one sector, Climate Change is a problem to be solved, for others they want to argue over whether it is 'true'.  This is a pointless argument to have if you want to change behaviour find something else that is not opposing, but will give you the outcome that is useful. 

So change the habits - based on values 
Sell  the actions that will work to help against climate change based on conservation not on climate change. Save time, save money, be frugal.  It is hard to find a reason to quibble against not wasting energy needlessly.  Conservation makes sense to both sides of the political spectrum

Myth 3  People know what motivates them. 

In fact they don't know. 

Biggest thing to drive behaviour is social norms. Musicians busking know this so they put money into their collection case to show passers by that's the normal thing to do. But the greatest predictor is seeing someone else do it - so they should have a friend come by regularly and put more money in!

Example: Hotel requesting patrons reuse their towels. Telling people that 70 percent of people reuse their towels in a hotel is actually more effective than a sign asking them to reuse towels to save the environment. In this case when tested, 58% will comply based on what other people do, compared to 38% based on saving the environment.This is actually the reverse of what they believe their motivations to be, when tested according to their actions.  Social norms are effective - and highly underestimated. 

So unlike so many of our public community advertisements to bring about change - where we focus on the few who make so many problems - perhaps we should be taking the opposite tack and highlighting the good behaviour we want to encourage - and showcase the problem makers as the minority - and out of synch with what's common.  Show people doing the thing that is the social norm that you want to encourage. 

For example. While we have some problems with alcohol and violence in some cities - in reality the great majority of people don't cause problems.  If we are showcasing problem behaviours are we in fact making this seem like the norm and leading us to expect the worst, not the best from people?