As the invisible gorilla test famously proved, we are sometimes blind to what’s happening around us, and oblivious to signs that sway us. To become more aware of how you are influenced by what you see and hear, and to get ideas on how to influence others, here are four nudges:
1. Give Them an Obvious Sign
• When you see a path of big green footprints you are more likely to follow them to the public bins and throw your trash away. That’s what the Danish Nudging Network discovered. First they gave distinctively wrapped caramel candies to pedestrians in an area. Afterwards they searched nearby garbage cans, bicycle baskets and even ashtrays for the empty wrappers, and counted them. Then they painted green footprint up to recycling bins and repeated the experiment. While 70% of the wrappers weren’t found in both settings, 46% fewer wrappers were littered in the “green footprints” experiment.
• After an image of a housefly was etched inside the urinals at Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport, the amount of misdirected urine fell by about 80%, according to the airport. They had something to aim at so the idea has spread.
• To sway more people to take the stairs, the Dutch NGO Hivos painted bright red strips from the lobby to the stairs. During the 24-hour experiment, they saw a 70% increase in the number of people who choose to climb the stairs. It’s all part of their Seduction Project, a clever label that’s sure to nudge people to volunteer for it.
Hint: What symbolic scene can you use to nudge people to move, or put something down or pick it up?
2. Don’t Make Them Feel Cornered
The counterintuitive way to pull others into buying or helping is to verbally reinforce, in a face-to-face situation, the feeling that they are, of course, free to do what they want. The exact language does not matter, according to several studies. Phrases such as “but you are free” or “But obviously do not feel obliged” seem to work equally well.
Hint: Giving others the freedom and cues to talk themselves into something specific often increases the chances they will. See the rest of the column at Forbes.