If you missed it but want to experience it, or were there and want to experience it again, I've recreated it here...sort of...by pairing Amy's drawings with short descriptions of the conversation that went with them. Spread the fire. GS
If you want to influence human behavior--convincing people to buy your product, support your cause or come around to your way of thinking--you must understand how they make decisions.
Dual Process Theory
System 2 is your conscious mind. It is slow, deliberate (you decide whether and when to apply it), effortful and rational. You use System 2 when you solve a multiplication problem.
System 1, by contrast, is unconscious, fast, automatic, effortless and irrational, but predictably so. You use System 1 when you glance at someone's face and instantly know their mood based on their facial expression. You didn't decide to figure it out, it came to you automatically in a flash.
You can see the two systems in operation when you think about why people wear safety belts. Some people read statistics about how seat belts improve safety for drivers, decide they are a good idea and consciously modify their behavior in response.That's a System 2 decision.
But some people wear seat belts to turn off that danged buzzer, where an environmental cue that had nothing to do with the safety of seat belts (the buzzer) had everything to do with modifying behavior.
- You influence System 2 by providing information to change minds to change behavior.
- You influence System 1 by changing contexts to change behavior and the mind changes last.
Because System 1 is automatic and always on, it renders the first decision about every choice. System 2 only comes on when things get difficult (cognitive disfluency) or when it disagrees with a choice made by System 1. Consequently, some scientiest estimate that we make 95% of our decisions using System 1 but only 5% using System 2.
Curiously, if you looked only at attempts to influence human behavior, you'd think those percentages were reversed because most attempts to change human behavior focus almost exclusively on System 2. Just look at health care. Our world is filled with educational programs and ad campaigns that warn us of the dangers of smoking and obesity, and yet 69% of smokers want to quit but only 6% succeed or 55% of overweight individuals want to lose the pounds but only 27% ever try. Those people don't need more information. Their System 2 process was already convinced--that's why they WANT to quit smoking and lose weight. These poor folks needed help with System 1 which most programs ignore.
Behavioral Economics: Influencing System 1
System 1 decisions are governed by a collection of cognitive biases called heuristics and are studied by a field of science called behavioral economics. Let's look at seven of them and explore how we used them to improve the well-being of whole communities in California and Iowa as part of something called The Blue Zones Project.
The Blue Zones Project began when National Geographic explorer Dan Buettner discovered five places on the planet where people lived measurably longer, healthier, happier lives--a higher percentage of them living well into their hundreds with fewer serious diseases. He called these places Blue Zones and studied them with a team of scientists. They discovered these places had nine behaviors in common and dubbed them The Power 9. They included things like moving naturally, regularly taking time off (downshifting) and nuturing strong social connections.
But the most surprising discovery was that no one in those places TRIED to embrace those behaviors (System 2), they happened naturally because they were encouraged by their environment (System 1). Okinawan's, for example, often sit on the floor and a lifetime of getting up and down creates natural movement which leads to significant health benefits.
If environments lead to behaviors and behaviors lead to longer lives, then it would be possible to manufacture Blue Zones by optimizing communities to promote the Power 9 behaviors. The Blue Zones Project is Healthways attempt to do just that. It began with a test in Albert Lea Minnesota, continued with a pilot in the Beach Cities of Southern California and moved into production with a program involving the state of Iowa. And it's working. After just one year in the program, Iowa jumped from number 14 to number nine on the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index and is one of just two states to see well-being improvements in three consecutive years.
Applying Behavioral Economics
Messenger - Our response to a message is influenced by the messenger. People prefer those with authority, those who are similar and those they like. Every message has a messenger. If you don't define it then your audience will and may assign one that's less influential, so it's better to do it yourself.
Governor Branstad was the spokesperson for the statewide launch of the Blue Zones Project in Iowa. Community leaders were spokespeople in each participating community.
Scarcity - People assign more value to things that are scarce. The car company that exceeded its sales projections by the greatest amount in 2004 was Oldsmobile. 2004 also happened to be Oldsmoile's final year of production. The company that was going out of business because its cars were not sufficiently popular, but its cars became more popular because it was going out of business!
Limited time offers, the concert promotions saying "seating is limited," and the counter that shows the number of items remaining on QVC are all examples of leveraging scarcity to increase perceived value.
We used scarcity in the Blue Zones Project by limiting the number of communities that could be come Blue Zones Project demonstration sites initially. This was also a practical limitation. We didn't have enough resourses to launch the program in many communities at once, but we turned that resource limitation into an advantage by encouraging 900+ communities in Iowa to compete for just 3 spots.
Affect - Our emotional associations strongly influence our choices.
Olan Mills, the retail photo studio, sells 24 printed pictures for $7.99 because it sells you portraits of yourself. Audition America can get $150 for 20 digital downloads of photos of you and a t-shirt because it sells you your dream. Audition America conducts a "talent search" for models, singers and movie stars and the photo session is just part of the process. In the end, whether you buy from Audition America or Olan Mills, what you get for your money is pictures of yourself, but Audition America can command a premium because it tapped a deeper emotional driver--your desire to be a star.
When we launched The Blue Zones Project in California we positioned it as a well-being improvement program. That positioning required people to understand and care about a new and potentially foreign concept--well-being improvement--as a prerequisite for particiation. After six months of aggressive marketing efforts we had signed up just 900 people.
Rather than introduce a new concept in Iowa, we tapped existing emotional currents--civic pride--by creating a competition among communities for the three available spots. We made citizen support one of the criteria by which we would select the winners and measured that support by the percentage of each community's residents that signed up and pledged to participate if their town was selected. An online scoreboard showed the relative percentage for each participating community. And, because it was updated each day, communities could easily see the difference their promotional efforts made on their rank. These cities were already accustomed to competing with each other on the basketball court and football field and it showed in their response. In six months this approach registered 106,000 people with as many as 64% of some community's residents pledging to participate.
Social Proof - People are heavily influenced by other people. Especially in uncertain situations, people rely on other people's choices to determine what they should do. If you have ever participated in a standing ovation for a mediocre performance then you have experienced its power. My favorite example comes from a 1962 episode of Candid Camera called Face the Rear where an unsuspecting "victim" turns around on the elevator to face the rear--the opposite of what they would typically do--because everyone else on the elevator is facing that direction.
When leveraging social proof to influence behavior, apply a few simple rules.
1. Make desired behavior visible so they are available to be copied. Apple made the earbuds and cables to its ipod white to distinguish it from competing products and people instantly knew which people on the plane or the bus were listening to an Apple product. The iPod became the most popular MP3 player because everybody seemed to have one and all of those people couldn't be wrong.
2. Make undesired behavior invisible. The "Broken Windows Theory" is an example where hiding visual cues associated with crime can reduce new incidences of crime.
3. If an undesired behavior is perceived as popular but is actually rare, then reduce the behavior by making its rarity apparent. College students tend to overestimate the amount of binge drinking that occurs. Binge drinking was reduced by programs that told students how rare it actually was.
In the Blue Zones Project we used a banner on the home page that listed the number of individuals, businesses and schools that had pledged to participate. This made each community's broad adoption visible to its residents so they could copy the choice made by their friends and neighbors.
Commitment - People seek to be consistent with their public commitments. If you sit in the exit row of a commercial airliner you have the responsibility to open the door in the event of an emergency. After explaiining this, flight attendants require you to give a "verbal yes" because speaking that word in front of your fellow passengers greatly increases the odds you will actually do it if the need arises.
A restaurant in Chicago had a problem with people missing reservations. When people made reservations the hostess would say, "If for some reason you can't make it. Please give us a call." Under those circumstances 30% of people with reservations missed them. When the hostess changed the script to, "If for some reason you can't make it, would you please give us a call? (wait for a verbal "yes")" missed reservations fell to 10%.
In the Blue Zones Project we leveraged commitment during the registration process by asking people to make a pledge. That pledge bound them to participate if their community was chosen.
Default Bias - People tend to go with the flow of preset options. Because System 1 is always on and easy, and because System 2 is hard work and we are lazy, people tend to go with the flow of preset options. In nations where people must opt-in to organ donation participation averages just 10%, but in nations where they must opt-out participation soars to 90%. They didn't run an expensive education and advertising campaign touting the merits of organ donation, they changed which box was already checked on the form and got an 80% improvement.
Loss Aversion - Losses loom larger than gains. People feel the pain of a loss twice as much as they enjoy the benefit of an equivalent gain. What's more, whether people perceive a situation as a gain or a loss depends on the point of reference they use for making their judgement--what Daniel Kahneman calls an "anchor." Shifting an offer's positioning from a gain scenario (take advantage of this opportunity) to a loss scenario (don't miss out) can substantially alter people's response.