Numbers don’t move us, emotions do

Numbers don't move us

Millions of Indians don’t have access to clean water, sanitation, electricity, education, healthcare, banking. The list can go on. The ones with access to all of it, including myself, are aware of the fact that millions go without it everyday. Yet it hardly moves us to do anything about it.

That’s the problem with statistics. It just doesn’t activate our emotions. Paul Slovic, a psychologist at the University of Oregon, has exposed this blind spot in our sympathetic brain. He asked people how much they were willing to donate to various charitable causes. Slovic found that when people were shown a picture of Rokia, a starving Malawian child, with emaciated body and haunting brown eyes, they donated generously to the Save the Children. However, when other people were provided with a list of statistics about starvation throughout Africa – more than 3 million children in Malawi are malnourished, more than 11 million people in Ethiopia need immediate food assistance, and so forth – the donation was 50% lower. At first glance it makes no sense right. When people are informed about the real scope of the problem, they should give more money, not less.

But what happens is that the depressing numbers leave us cold. Our minds can’t comprehend suffering on such a massive scale. That’s why we are riveted when a kid falls in a bore well but turn a blind eye to millions who die every year due to lack of clean drinking water. As Mother Teresa put it, “If I look at the mass, I will never act. If I look at the one, I will.”

Source: Paul Slovic – “If I look at the mass I will never act”: Psychic numbing and genocide – Judgment and Decision Making, vol. 2, no. 2, April 2007, pp. 79-95.

Behavioural Design on comedy show ‘Cyrus Says’

Behavioural Design on comedy show Cyrus Says

Human behaviour is funny. That’s why popular comedian Cyrus Broacha invited us to understand what Behavioural Design is all about.

We spoke about why Indian men stare at cleavages, touch inappropriately, spit in public, why we honk indiscriminately, don’t allow pedestrians to cross in India, why we behave irrationally in general and what can be done about it. We spoke about how men look at women’s bodies and how women look at men’s bodies, how to reduce smoking, how to avoid over-eating, why its time for the Indian Government to begin applying behavioural science like the US and UK governments are applying. We spoke about behavioural science principles like social proof and overconfidence and our projects Bleep and People Power. Download Saavn to hear the non-sense – http://www.saavn.com/s/show/Cyrus-Says/2/2mYLF,EZgkk_

Small ideas make a big difference

Small ideas make a big difference

There are lots of small everyday things that could benefit from being designed better. Things we take for granted in everyday life. But when designed well, things just work, leading to enhanced experience, satisfied customers, appropriate actionability, increased sales, etc. This post is about few of such small everyday ideas.

Like handles on doors. If there is a handle on the door, the tendency is to pull it. But almost all doors have a handle on the side it says push, too. If the door needs to be pushed, why have a handle? Simply keep it flat and we’ll push it.

When composing emails, wish there was a reminder to attach our files, when words like ‘attached’ or ‘attachment’ were found in the composed email.

‘No Parking on Odd dates 1 3 5’ and ‘No Parking on Even dates 2 4 6’ tend to be so cumbersome. We need to first think about what date it is today, then figure that its ‘No Parking’ on that side, which means we can park on the opposite side. Instead what if we had ‘Parking on Odd dates only’ and ‘Parking on Even dates only’.

Because there are two traffic signals in view at all times, one after the zebra crossing and one much ahead on the other side of the junction, we Indians always push ahead wanting to be first (in whichever race that is) therefore not stopping at the zebra crossing and not allowing pedestrians to cross. So to get cars to stop at the zebra crossing, only one traffic signal needs to be there, placed just before the stripes begin.

Instead of having to choose from financial retirement plans with complicated numbers, what if we could choose, by looking at pictures of different homes (1, 2, 3, 4 BHK) that could be bought with different levels of retirement income.

I often get asked about what mega-pixel camera on the phone is good. Fact is that we don’t understand what mega-pixels mean. What will be useful to us is the information of what mega-pixel matched what size of print. But we know this one won’t happen, else phone and camera manufacturers won’t be able to convince us to mindlessly upgrade.

Remember using the plastic card key in your hotel room to start and switch off the power. Wouldn’t it be convenient to have one in our home, so that we could start/switch off the power with one stroke and do away with the nagging feeling of not having turned off the geyser or gas or some other appliance after leaving home?

The tendency is to think of these design ideas as small (insignificant) ideas, but they are the ones that make for the most awesome product, service experiences and of course get us to behave.

The smartest thing on the idiot box

Behavioural Design on National Geographic channel

Behavioural Design is on National Geographic Channel.

Behavioural scientist Daniel Pink is doing a show called Crowd Control. Its a series of experiments that use behavioural science to solve public problems like how to get kids to not pee in the pool, how to get people to follow instructions in emergency flight landings, etc.

It’s on National Geographic Channel on Mon-Thur 10pm India time.

Because it’s a TV show, they’ve had to factor in the entertainment quotient. That’s why few of the solutions are not scalable. Nevertheless they make for some of the smartest ideas you’ll see on TV.

See the edited video clips of the experiments right now here.

Talk on Investor behaviour (Franklin Templeton)

Talk on Investor behaviour for Franklin Templeton

We spoke on Investor Behaviour at Franklin Templeton’s Independent Financial Advisor convention in Bali on 12th December.

Our presentation was about investor’s biases, heuristics and rules of thumbs. We also conducted a live auction that brought alive our irrational behaviour amongst the audience who participated in it.

The rest again is confidential material. But we will be posting many articles on behaviour – consumer, employee, shopper, investor, public that we promise.

Have an awesome year.

 

 

Behavioural Design for The Economist

First commercial Behavioural Design

In a pilot for The Economist India, Briefcase demonstrated 20% savings of the customer retention budget.

In the challenging environment of magazine subscription renewals, Briefcase achieved similar subscription renewals as existing levels, but at 20% lesser cost. Thus demonstrating a 20% savings in the customer retention budget.

The rest of course is confidential.

First ever TEDx – Q&A for VJTI

First ever TEDx talk Q&A for VJTI

We were invited for the first ever TEDx – Q&A session for VJTI engineering students and makers, on 17th September 2014 at the VJTI campus (VJTI is one of the premier engineering institutes of India having received funding from The World Bank). A big thanks to TEDxGateway’s campus connect initiative. What an awesome time we had answering questions from curious minds at VJTI about Bleep, its future, human behaviour, behaviour change, Behavioural Design and the role of technology in Behavioural Design.

Students of VJTI were shown our TEDxGateway talk on Bleep and Behavioural Design immediately followed by a Q&A session that seemed like it would have lasted hours because the questions just wouldn’t stop from the enthusiastic crowd. But of course we had to have a maximum time limit of an hour. Here are highlights of the Q&A session.

Questions naturally began about Bleep and its future. We explained to students that Bleep being a product that solved a social issue and not an individual problem, is the responsibility of the Government of India. Which is why we aren’t selling Bleep to individual customers who we believe will hardly form any numbers. Plus Bleep won’t help car manufacturers sell more cars so they won’t install it voluntarily either. After some question and answers most seemed to accept our answer but some still seemed optimistic that Bleep could be sold to individuals. May be it was their optimism bias. May be one day we’ll be proved wrong.

Students asked whether Bleep could prove to be distracting and cause accidents in emergencies. We informed them that we had tested Bleep for over 3800 km and no accidents had occurred. We also told them that according to Jeff Muttart’s study (a traffic-accident reconstructionist) in emergencies people don’t use the horn and therefore Bleep will not go off and distract them further. Jeff Muttart has pored over hundreds of surveillance videos of real-life car crashes and near-crashes. His study shows that emergency horn use is not associated with decreased accident involvement. He found that drivers never steered and honked at the same time, and usually they didn’t honk at all. About half of emergency honks were meant to chastise and came only after the danger was over. The other half were just preludes to a crash. “It really didn’t serve any purpose at all. It was just, Hey, by the way, I’m going to hit you.”

(Muttart, J., “Factors that Influence Drivers’ Response Choice Decisions in Video Recorded Crashes,” SAE Technical Paper 2005-01-0426, 2005, doi:10.4271/2005-01-0426)

Someone asked “But what will happen to people’s honking behaviour once Bleep is removed from the car?” We told them that we haven’t done the post study, but we jokingly said, “First let Bleep come into our cars. Then we’ll see what happens if its not there anymore.”

The most interesting part of the session was the discussion about Behavioural Design and behaviour change. We sensed that the students found it to be a new, unique and intriguing concept. We spoke about irrational behaviour, difference in attitudes and behaviour, why we cannot solely rely on will power for behaviour change, why most educational campaigns don’t work, how we create false memories, why we use Behavioural Design and not work towards increasing people’s self-awareness and how collaboration between engineers and designers can design new products that facilitate behaviour change.

One of the curious students having read about People Power (click on the link to read about it) before attending the session, asked us to speak about the experiment. So we obliged and told them about how human behaviour is contagious. Like right there in the auditorium once the first student raised his hand to ask a question, seeing him one by one the others followed. Soon we were asked if we had solutions for littering, spitting, eve teasing, not talking on the mobile while driving and so on. May be one day we may.

Meanwhile we told them that we had a solution for another behaviour change. We spontaneously made an offer to VJTI students and makers that we’d be happy to hire a person who could help us create a product on a project that could potentially change an aspect of our behaviour. If you are an electronic engineer, maker and are interested to change human behaviour, email us with your work at anand@brief-case.co

When incentives don’t motivate

behavioural_design_cashforvote

In 1993, the Swiss government identified two small towns as potential nuclear waste depositories. So researchers, Bruno S. Frey and Felix Oberholzer-Gee tried to get the townspeople’s reactions to it. They asked the residents: “Suppose that the National Cooperative for the Storage of Radioactive Waste (NAGRA), after completing exploratory drilling, proposed to build the repository for low and midlevel radioactive waste in your hometown. Federal experts examined this proposition, and the federal parliament decided to build the repository in your community, would you accept this proposition?”

Many people were frightened but whether out of social obligation, a feeling of national pride, or just a sense that it was a fair thing to do, 50.8% of the respondents agreed. The other half opposed and so were still a significant obstacle for the Swiss government.

So the researchers spoke to a new group of individuals from the two towns, asking the same, but this time added, “Moreover, the parliament decides to compensate all residents of the community with 5000 francs per year per person (about $2175 that time) financed by all taxpayers in Switzerland, would you accept this proposition?”

This time the percentage of those who accepted fell by half! Only 24.6% agreed compared to 50.8% who agreed without any monetary compensation. When the researchers increased the deal to $4350 and then again to $6525, only a single respondent changed his mind. What was going on?

According to Brian Knutson, one of the pioneers of Neuroeconomics, the nucleus accumbens is the area of the brain that experiences the thrill that results from sex, drugs and gambling. It’s the pleasure center. It’s where we also react to financial compensation. Now compare this to our neurological reaction to altruistic behavior. A different region of the brain, called the posterior superior temporal sulcus lights up. This part of the brain is responsible for social interactions – how we perceive others, how we relate, and how we form bonds. It is now understood by studies that the pleasure center and the altruism center cannot function at the same time.

If the two brain centers functioned simultaneously, then the Swiss survey would have resulted in a compounding effect, but that didn’t happen. In the first half the altruism center took charge. But the moment the money was introduced the pleasure center took over. But the money offered turned out to be too low to excite the pleasure center.

Voting is a bit like that. It’s a matter of ideologies, philosophies, whatever they may be; supporting the candidate or party we think may be better for us, for our constituency, for the nation. We weigh benefits that may accrue to us as well as to the society. In that case the amount of goodies and cash doled out to people to buy votes may be money down the drain for the parties doing so.

We know people who accept each and every candidates’ offer, be it whiskey, biryani, cash, electronics. They then end up voting for the candidate they had already decided upon. It’s a lose-lose situation for all parties. Perhaps they should together decide to spend that money effectively on ensuring more people vote and vote for them.

Source

Behavioural Design talk at TEDxIIMRanchi

Behavioural Design talk at TEDxIIMRanchi

After TEDxGateway, the next Behavioural Design talk is at TEDxIIMRanchi on 2nd Feb, 2014.

Again, lots of interesting speakers.

We’re sure what we learn from other speakers and the audience will help us improve our knowledge and also this blog.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...