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How to get people to follow the rules...

At my job there is a laptop-free zone. It is the only room in the entire building that should be laptop free. As you might have guessed, it is not. I have a choice to make, as have all my colleagues. I either accept that people are using laptops in the reading room – as is the current situation – or I can insist on changing the situation. Let’s assume I am asked to find a solution so that the rules will be respected again. What measures would I suggest to change the visitors’ behavior? Two possible directions My colleagues and I could inform our visitors. This basically means we would have to check the behavior of visitors non-stop and correct them when needed. After some time more laptop-users will be seated outside the reading room, taking away social proof that it is allowed to use laptops inside the room. This is not really a solution since it would make us all feel like inspectors. Besides, nobody is informing the visitors now so why would my colleagues agree to do this in the future? We could change the setting to make people aware thatlaptops are to be used elsewhere. If it would be really clear that laptop-users are welcome everywhere in the building except the reading room, they would probably choose to sit in areas where laptops are allowed. This seems like a better direction to follow. How can we get people to live by the library rules? When developing a plan to change the behavior of people, there are certain things we need to keep in mind in order to come up with a good solution. The human brain is not very good in picking up the word...

My world or your world?

What if you were all alone? What if no other people existed, or if they existed only in your imagination? It is impossible to prove that other people exist (they might be ‘in’ your head). This means the only thing you can know with absolute certainty is that you exist. Some philosophers hold this ‘solipsistic’ worldview. I don’t believe that solipsism is true. I assume there are other people in this world and I suppose they also have feelings, experiences and thoughts. But even when solipsism is not true, I still cannot know what someone else is thinking, experiencing or feeling. I can never know the inner life of someone else. Different worlds So what’s the big deal, you might wonder… Since we cannot know what others are thinking, we can never know how far apart our feelings, experiences and thoughts are from those of other people. Research in social psychology shows that there are numerous biases that make your perception of the world distorted and hence different from that of others. This seems to imply we are living together in ‘different worlds’. Common biases in your perception of the world Every person goes through his / her own experiences, creating a unique history that creates a unique personality. Knowledge and experiences that you gained earlier on in your life influences the way you experience everything that follows later on. Here are some common examples of biases (which might be called coloring your world, or a preference for certain perspectives). Optimism bias: everybody who participates in lotteries thinks his chance of winning is higher than it actually is. We tend to think that good things come to us more often than they actually do. Depressed people are better at...

Greediness: why the rich behave inappropriately...

Why would someone be greedy? The poor: fewer resources and more uncertainty make it reasonable to be motivated to behave unethically and increase resources or overcome disadvantages. The rich: greater resources, more freedom and less dependence from others give upper-class individuals more reason to be self-focused, which might lead to unethical behavior. The recent economic crisis has partly been attributed to wealthy people that behaved unethical (Piff, Stancato, Côté et al., 2012). A (self-focused) upper-class individual is worse at identifying the emotions of others, less concerned with and less conscious of others, and more disengaged during social interaction. Greed is a robust determinant of unethical behavior. Findings suggest that upper-class individuals are particularly likely to value their own welfare over the welfare of others and hold more positive attitudes toward greed. Lower-class individuals quite often have negative experiences with others being greedy, while not being in the position to be greedy themselves. This easily leads to disliking greedy behavior (Piff, Stancato, Côté et al., 2012). Hence upper-class individuals are more often greedy, which leads to more unethical actions. Greedy people In studies where greediness and wealth (SES) were correlated with unethical behavior, greediness was found to be the predictive factor. Yet greediness and wealth go together and therefore can be ‘replaced’ by one another in the list below (Piff, Stancato, Côté et al., 2012). For example: ‘people in  more expensive cars’ (wealthy people) can be replaced by ‘greedy people’, while the statement that they are likely to cut off others remains valid. This goes for all findings about the relation between greed/wealth and unethical behavior listed below. People in more expensive cars more often cut off others. People in more expensive cars stop less often at a crosswalk. In...

7 thinking errors you make...

We all make mistakes. Once bitten twice shy? Unfortunately that does not hold when it comes to thinking. We do not recognize thinking errors as such. By thinking about how you think you can avoid these mistakes. Your brain loves shortcuts. Finding answers takes time, time you can use for many other purposes. The downside of shortcuts is that they can – and often will – give you the wrong answer. Below you find seven common mistakes.   Tying the wrong concepts together Confusing causation and correlation: When two things happen at the same moment, or when one thing happens just before the other, the conclusion that the one caused the other is easily made. Yet both events can be caused by something else. Rain and lightning go together, but there is no causal relation. Over-generalization: what is true for one is not per se true for all. If you and three of your friends enjoyed a day at the beach, it does not mean everybody likes that. And the fact that some people committed fraud is no reason to believe everyone does (it is a reason to be cautious though). Nothing happened – yet: evidence is needed to be sure something happened, but lack of evidence can also mean there is no evidence yet. If nothing happened in the past this is no guarantee nothing will ever happen. Stating that you have never been in a car accident is no reason not to wear seatbelts. Letting others convince you Appeal to authority: even experts can be wrong. What is really important are the reasons and evidence that support the judgment, not the judge. Never take the judgment of an expert, your dad, or any authority for granted without knowing...

Covey #7 – Four dimensions to renew your character...

“I don’t have time to sharpen the saw,” the man says emphatically. “I’m too busy sawing.” (Covey)  Sometimes we are so busy achieving a goal we forget to look for easier ways to achieve it. According to Covey there are four areas you need to focus on to ‘sharpen your saw’, or improve your character. Why is it so hard to focus on improving your method or technique? Because you will often feel rushed to arrive at your destination and therefore forget to even look at the road you are travelling. Living with a constant sense of urgency creates the feeling that you have no time to improve your method of getting there. Four dimensions to sharpen Covey distinguishes four areas where you can develop your character and wellbeing to renew your character. Physical dimension: care for your physical body.  Eat the right foods, get enough rest, and exercise regularly. Physical wellbeing usually only feels urgent when you do not take care of yourself for a longer period of time and start to gain weight, feel exhausted or unhealthy. But that is too late. Spiritual dimension: take time regularly to think about your values and goals. What are your goals and are you on your way towards reaching them? If your values and goals are not right, how can the actions that proceed out of them be right? Find a regular moment of inner peace to reflect on your values and goals. You might think about meditation, listening to music, or walking. Mental dimension: most people stop learning when they finish school. What we don’t stop with is watching TV: numbers vary between an average of 20 to 35 hours a week per person. This comes down to 2.8...

Covey #6 – Synergize – how to make 1 plus 1 equal 3...

Making one plus one equal three or even more, that is what synergy is about. Basically, synergizing is a combination of thinking win/win and understanding the other. Covey adds one aspect to these earlier discussed habits: we need to understand, seek and appreciate the differences. 3 things you need to keep in mind to synergize Your worldview is not objective. Everyone has different experiences and these experiences shape how we view the world. Realizing this is the case for your worldview too is necessary for creating synergy. Be different. New perspectives and insights can cause your worldview to change. If someone thinks exactly like you it is hard to achieve new insights through conversation. If you and your colleague or friend have different points of view it is worthwhile to understand where the differences come from. Appreciate the difference. Besides recognizing the other has a different point of view also appreciate this other perspective. The other must have good reasons to think this way, so try to understand and learn from him. Ask why the other is choosing his position instead of assuming his position to be nonsense beforehand. A limitation I would like to add Covey suggests that differences are not logical, they are psychological. I suppose this means you and I have different experiences and hence see the world differently. There is a more philosophical and deeper problem behind different experiences that might partly go together with this idea, but also complicates it. There are a few questions we will never be capable of answering. An easy example is the question whether God exists or not. We cannot prove he does, neither can we prove he does not. But you have an idea about that, just like...

Britain got talent for behavioral change...

I just discovered a brilliant example of behavior change. A tiny adjustment to a letter has increased the British tax revenue with millions of pounds sterling. The British tax agency simply added a paragraph to the letter they send citizens to remind them to pay their taxes. This increased timely filing of taxes with 15% and saved enormous costs. Wow. Think about that. What did this adjustment consist of? Threats? Rewards? No. It simply told the reader that many others in the neighborhood had already filed their taxes. The idea came from the Behavioural Insights Team (BIT, established in 2010) and was met with scepticism. But after having seen some convincing changes made by simple (and cheap) measures more and more departures are asking the ‘nudge unit’s’ (as the BIT is often called) for help. Some great and inspiring measures the BIT took. Instead of telling people they have to pay their fines for traffic violations, the team added a picture of the car (taken at the moment of the offence) and added in big letters ‘you might lose this car if you do not pay your fine’. The amount of people that paid tripled. The BIT changed the envelope-color of British governmental letters from brown to white and made handwritten personal notes on the outside. The amount of reactions to letters increased phenomenal. Subsidies for isolating roofs exist for years, but they were never much used. The BIT changed the whole approach. Instead of subsidizing isolation, people can request a subsidy for cleaning up their attic in order to make space for the isolation process. The number of isolations has skyrocketed. Nudge theory Most people think of themselves and others as rational beings that act with self-regard. This...

Covey #5 – Seek first to understand, then to be understood...

There is a common tendency to try and fix things with ‘good’ advice. Things are not your problem and yet you immediately associate the problem with your own experiences and before you know you blurt out an advice. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? But how helpful is such an advice? And do you ever take it to heart? Our education has taught us how to read, write and speak. But who was ever educated in listening? I was, when I studied psychology, but that might be considered a bit late. The people around me had already suffered twenty years of me not listening to them properly! Psychology only taught me techniques; it did not teach me how I could really hear the other person. Covey explicitly puts a focus on listening by heart, which goes further than techniques can take you. Another person – your lover, employee or someone you just met – will notice that you are sincerely interested if he or she experiences that you are listening honestly. Only by listening sincerely will you notice the true feelings and ideas of your friend or colleague. And only this will help you give him or her the best possible advice. Mistaking talking for listening Do you ever wonder if you are listening sincerely? When you often give one of the following replies when talking to someone, you are probably doing anything but listening: “I went through the very same thing. Let me tell you about my experience.” “Oh, I know exactly how you feel.” How can you understand the other with a few words and reply with an entire story? Simple: you can’t! Most times, you try to understand someone else by relating his story to your own experiences....