Earlier this month, we presented the Wadala Experiment Case Study at the World Social Marketing Conference in Dublin, Ireland. The 2nd World conference brought together an audience of 600 behavioural change experts from 40 different countries.
The Wadala Experiment was the only case study presented at WSMConference that drew on learnings from Cognitive Neuroscience and Behavioural Economics to tackle social problems (trespassing in Mumbai). Behaviour change in larger societal problems, including healthcare, savings, and road safety can benefit greatly if we change our thinking and approach these issues in a more fundamental manner.
With the success of the Wadala Experiment Case Study, we have demonstrated how Behaviour Architecture™ can be used effectively to bridge the gap between AWARENESS and ACTION, a point which most social marketers, and even consumer marketers, are grappling with today.
If you have a parole hearing, when should you schedule your slot so that you get a favourable decision? The graph below might shed some light on that question.
In this graph, Shai Denziger captures the results of 1112 parole hearings in Israeli prisons over a ten-month period.
The vertical axis is the proportion of cases where the judges granted parole. The horizontal axis shows the order in which the cases were heard during the day. And the dotted lines, they represent the points where the judges went away for a morning snack and their lunch break.
What the graph shows is extremely noteworthy. At the start of the day, the odds that a prisoner will be successfully paroled is 65%, before nosediving to 0% within a matter of few hours. The judges take their first break (as shown by the dotted lines), and the successful odds climb up to 65%, before plummeting again. Ditto for the proportion of successful paroles after lunch.
Danziger found that the three prisoners seen at the start of each “session” were more likely to be paroled than the three who are seen at the end. That’s true regardless of the length of their sentence, or whether they had been incarcerated before.
Whether prisoners are let off or not could merely be a function of when their cases were heard.
An easy explanation to this could be the aspect of “choice overload”. In repetitive decision-making tasks, once we’ve drained our mental resources, we suffer from choice overload and start opting for the default choice.
For the judges, the more decisions they’ve made, the more depleted they are, and hence they end up making the default choice – in this case, deny parole.
But if we look at things more fundamentally, a clearer picture emerges. Glucose helps you make better decisions.
Glucose is the only fuel used by the brain cells for mental activity. Since the neurons don’t store glucose, they depend on the bloodstream to supply a constant amount of this fuel.
As the judges make more decisions, their brains are getting drained, thereby creating a propensity to look at more immediate decisions (getting back concentration and focus on the current task) rather than understanding the prisoner’s situation and taking appropriate decisions.
The implications of glucose on decision making and its effect as seen in judges’ decision making are huge.
The brain is an energy optimizing machine. Making decisions takes a lot of effort, and too many of them make us feel tired.
In organizations that demand lot of mental task from their employees, productivity can be increased by creating an environment that leads to making fewer decisions. Google is a frontrunner in recognizing this aspect and creates an environment that reduces distractions (thereby keeping glucose levels higher), because of which it’s employees go on to create things that Google is so well known for.
As erstwhile CEO Eric Schmidt put it…
“Let’s face it: programmers want to program, they don’t want to do their laundry. So we make it easy for them to do both.”
This is a fundamental way of looking at how organizational productivity can be increased. If more companies start thinking in this manner, it can only open up doors for a new era in innovation, creating a happier bunch of employees who can then do whatever they do in the best
We all crave for simplicity in our lives. But if we closely observe, the way we do things is not always simple. A complex object can be confusing at times but too much simplicity is also very boring. Consider how we read time. Majority of us own and prefer using an analog watch vs a digital one. A digital watch is precise, literal and simple. Whereas it takes months of learning to read time correctly from an analog watch. (Two rotating hands - shorter indicating hour and longer one indicating minutes. In some cases, also a third one for seconds) But we still prefer using an analog watch to a digital one. Why? A digital watch is a literal object that just states information without any room for individual interpretation. It instructs. It only showcases the present time. An analog watch on the other hand allows us to derive and therefore construct the information in our minds. The visual, spatial and auditory information combine to help us interpret the past, present and future of time. When the watch indicates 12:20, the space created with the hands helps us make a visual interpretation of the ’20 minutes past 12’ or ’40 mins remaining for 1o’clock. This also aids our sense of control over the time that is passing or has passed, and we all know how essential this is to human beings, the lack of which is a source of stress. The simplification afforded by a digital watch, leads to a loss of control or power. This is an illustration of a scenario where an object with higher perceived complexity, an analogue watch, is more meaningful and therefore more pleasurable than its simpler version, the digital watch.
Sachin Tendulkar was close to getting his 50th Test hundred, but debutante bowler Adam McKay came along and spoiled the party. (Picture from The Hindu) Sachin has been the most prolific batsman of all time. All those years of training and playing professional cricket has fine tuned his memory, attention and learning mechanisms when he is at the crease. He is the undisputed king of batting, yet he has a knack of getting out by many a debutante bowler. This is odd, don't you think? What does this have to do with London cabbies? Exhaustive training is required to get "The Knowledge" in order to drive a black cab in London. Turns out, this rigorous training and years of driving is also what gives the London cabbie a quick-fire knowledge of some 25,000 streets within six miles of Charing Cross Station. Sachin has the foremost knowledge of the game. This has allowed him to thrash some of the best bowlers in cricket all over the field, yet he finds himself becoming the prized scalp of many a debutante bowler, more so often now. His predicament is similar to the London cabbies, who in a recent research, struggled with their ability to learn unfamiliar routes (which were integrated into other familiar areas of London).
Woollett and Maguire speculated that in this case the drivers' expertise was getting in the way of learning the new routes: 'When presented with new information to learn that is similar to their existing knowledge, their poorer performance may reflect expert inflexibility and an inability to inhibit access to existing (and now competing) memory representations.'When Sachin faces that inswinging yorker from Brett Lee, his brain has stored numerous iterations of that particular moment, from the many times he's batted him. This interaction gets added to all existing knowlege he has about Brett Lee. His attentional, memory and learning mechanisms are fine-tuned to recognize those patterns and whoop these established bowlers. But when Andy Mckay comes in, Tendulkar is still struggling to incorporate new patterns of a new bowler into his memory. In the process of doing so, he ends up losing his wicket. Sachin might be God, but his Achilles' heel is actually the human brain. This is what makes him vulnerable to these debutante bowlers. Not sure if he can help that, what do you think?
As designers we constantly ponder ‘What is the ultimate measure of success for design?’ In my opinion its easy adoption by the end user, which basically means minimizing cognitive load in comprehending the designer/designs intent. Affordance is one such concept that can help us better understand user-interactions with designed artifacts. Consider this how many times have you pushed a door that should be pulled open, or pulled a door that should be pushed open? This picture shows a door giving mixed messages: The sign explicitly tells you to push the door open, but the handle implicitly tells you to pull the door open; because, after all, handles are for pulling on! The property of an object, or an environment, which allows an individual to perform an action is known as ‘Affordance’. Affordances are catalysts for deriving a desired behavior/action. The term ‘Affordance’ was first coined by the perceptual psychologist, James J. Gibson in his 1977 article "The Theory of Affordances" and explored it more fully in his book The Ecological Approach to Visual Perception in 1979. Gibson’s theory stresses that affordances are all “action possibilities” furnished by an artifact/environment, which may or may not be perceived by the user, but are dependent on the users capabilities. In 1988,Donald Norman in his book, “The design of everyday things” appropriated the term affordances to refer to “perceivable action possibilities”. It makes the concept dependent not only on the physical capabilities of an actor, but also the actor's goals, plans, values, beliefs, and past experiences. A classic example to elaborate the significance of Affordances: I once worked in an office where the entrance door opened only in one direction. However there were identical handles on both sides. Since handles afford pulling, people constantly struggled with the door. Had the designer replaced the handle outside with a flat plate it would have instantly solved the problem, because a featureless surface affords pushing. The concept of affordances is not unique to any particular artifact or environment and also applies to a wide variety of scales. This emphasizes the universal applicability of the concept of Affordance across different design fields. Image source: http://chriselyea.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/01/PushPullDoors.jpg http://www.betterimprovement.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/10/330.jpg