What's in a name? Quite a bit, as it turns out. Before giving something a label or a name, think about the behavior you want to elicit and then name it accordingly.
Here’s an example. Both of the photos below show a collection of receptacles where the goal is to get people to recycle certain materials. But, sorting through stuff is inconvenient. It takes time and effort. So, how do you motivate people to expend the necessary effort to take the desired action? The correct name can help.
In the group on the left the center receptacle is labeled according to “what you put in it”—Waste. The label is true, but ineffective as it relates to the goal because it elicits the wrong response. What do we do with waste? Why, we throw it away, of course. This label makes it easy for people to throw waste into the center bin, guilt-free and without a second thought.
But the center receptacle in the image on the right (I took this at Georgia Tech) is labeled differently. It's named according to “where its contents are headed”—the Landfill--and that changes how people feel about putting things in it. People may not hesitate to throw away trash, but, thanks to social norms they are reluctant to contribute to a landfill. So reluctant, in fact, that they would rather expend the time and effort to sort their recycling than add another plastic bottle to the landfill. As a bonus, this name helps people feel good about themselves because there is less in a landfill because of their actions.
Naming Your Baby
Before labeling something it's important to consider the following:
1. What action do you want people to take?
2. Who are those people and what matters to them?
3. What are the different angles from which you can look at the thing to be named? Where did it come from? What does it do? How does it do it? What benefit does it provide? What is it made of? Who made it? Who uses it?
4. Which naming approach supports the desired action? Would you rather wear a "Passenger Restraint" (true to its function but has a negative connotation) or a "Safety Belt" (true to its benefit and has a positive connotation)?
Spread the fire. GS