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...

Broken windows

You find it annoying that people don’t do waste separation? The saying “do not do to others what you would not like to be done to you” sounds mostly morally binding but in this context it actually makes a lot of sense and should make us think twice. Social proof  makes us copy the behavior others show. This – of course – also means that others will copy our behavior. Also our bad behavior. Broken window theory Wilson and Kelly found that a sign with a prohibition was more easily ignored if others left marks of disregard. Keizer, Lindenberg and Steg did some great real-life experiments showing this principle. A ‘don’t cycle here’ sign combined with a parked bike in the area let to more people going through with their bikes. A sign with ‘no graffiti’ and graffiti on the wall let to more waste disposal in the area. Not only do we disregard prohibitions if we see others doing the same, we also ignore other general rules (like the fact that you are not supposed to throw waste on the floor). Now back to your office So all those other people at work are not separating their waste and this annoys you so much that you refuse to do it yourself too. By the way… their inappropriate behavior also makes it very difficult for you to decide what waste bin should be used, right? In your frustration you decide to put a sign on the wall pointing at the unwanted behavior. This sign, together with the mess, will be an even stronger social proof for the others to not separate their waste. What could you do? Create an environment that points towards the wished behavior. If you want...

Using Other People as Shortcut – Social Proof...

We appear to believe that what others think is correct. In an unknown situation we will look at the behavior of others, and copy-paste this to ourselves. Yet even in situations where we do know how to act, people can let us astray and make us follow their choices. The plurality of the truths of others appears more important than what we think ourselves. Ten people know more than one and so if we don’t know what to do; we better look at the behavior of others. It sounds very reasonable to think this way and we do it very often too. There is one major issue with this ‘shortcut’ in our thinking. We take it for granted that those other people do know what needs to be done. And this assumption might be false. Incorrect Examples Suppose all the examples of behavior you are seeing are not correct? Suppose everybody is acting just as unknowing as you are. Each of you will be copying the behavior of someone else. If, by accident, the first person (whom everyone started to copy) acted silly, you might all end up acting ridiculous. Lun et al. found that this principle influences greatly what we perceive as correct and incorrect behavior. The more often we see option A in situation X, the more we will appreciate option A in this situation. Using it for the better Bandura and Menlove reduced children’s fear for dogs. They provided the children with different pictures of others playing with dogs. Pictures were enough to make a change. The biggest change was found when pictures were shown where several people played with a dog: the more the better to prove that dogs aren’t scary. In a situation where...