Vinoth Deva Kumar

@vinothdevakumar

Minor cues in context drive big changes in human behaviour

Research has shown that signs alone can change human behaviour. Think about traffic signs. But how effective are signs and instructive messages? Could there be any other intervention or nudge that could bring about a more effective change in behaviour? Research in behavioural science has shown that relatively minor changes to the context can have a significant impact on human behaviour.

Intervention study to change driver’s behavior

Researchers at the University of East Anglia designed an intervention study to encourage drivers to voluntarily switch off their idling engines.

Intervention 1: a pair of “watching eyes” cue

Earlier research has shown that displaying a pair of eyes increases human’s moral behaviour and cooperative behaviour. This is because humans tend to be more cooperative and behave morally when their reputation is at stake. Mere display of a pair of watching eyes creates a subtle cue that their reputation is at stake. However, in this particular study, more drivers kept their engines on in the watching eyes condition vis-a-vis baseline condition.

In a second experiment, the watching eyes cue was accompanied by two different versions of instructive message: 1. a generic instructive message “When the barriers are down switch off your engine.” and 2. message that is designed to appeal to self-interest of people “Think of yourself: When barriers are down switch off your engine.” In the generic version, drivers were 1.83 times more likely to turn off the engines and in the self-focus condition, drivers were 4.82 times more likely

Brain Games Episode: “Take the money”

Look at the drastic change in behaviour, when “watching eyes” cues was introduced into the experiment.

Brain Games Episode “Take the Money”

The above two experiments show how minor changes to context can bring about significant changes in the way humans behave.

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