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Robert Cialdini: The Power of Social Vs. Economic and Regulatory Factors in Behavior Change
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Robert Cialdini: The Power of Social Vs. Economic and Regulatory Factors in Behavior Change

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Robert Cialdini's Presentation from a Congressional Hill Briefing organized by the Division of Behavior and Social Science and Education of the National Research Council. Details found here: …

Robert Cialdini's Presentation from a Congressional Hill Briefing organized by the Division of Behavior and Social Science and Education of the National Research Council. Details found here: http://sites.nas.edu/socialandbehavioralsciences/


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  • 1. The Power of Social versus Economic and Regulatory Factors in Behavior Change Dr. Robert B. Cialdini President, Influence At Work
  • 2. Contentions  Government can rely too much on economic and regulatory levers when seeking to motivate citizens toward policy goals.  Policy-makers would do well, as well, to consider what is known from behavioral and social science research about psychological motivators that can be at least as effective, yet less costly.
  • 3. The Six Universal Principles of Social Influence 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. Reciprocation Scarcity Authority Friendship/Liking Commitment/Consistency Consensus (Social Proof)
  • 4. Principle 5: Commitment/Consistency People try to act in ways that are consistent with what they have already said or done.
  • 5. Behavioral scientists have labeled what people have already said or done as commitments. What’s more, they’ve found that the most persisting commitments have four features.
  • 6. Lasting Commitments Are:  Active  Public  Voluntary (Owned)  Written-down
  • 7. Principle 6: Consensus People try to follow the lead of those around them, like them.
  • 8. Thus, people are influenced by the actions and opinions of: •Many others •Similar others
  • 9. Impact of Social Influence Let’s consider how these two simple principles of social influence can impact behavior in a pair of arenas relevant to government policy: 1. The Efficiency of Healthcare Delivery 2. Energy Conservation
  • 10. Impact of Social Influence The case of: The UK’s Behavioural Insights Unit and the National Health Service’s problem of Did Not Attends (No-Shows) at appointments for medical visits and procedures
  • 11. Influence At Work / NHS Bedford DNA Study Intervention Stopped 10 5 0 -6.7% -5 Verbal Commitment -10 -20 -30 •p=0.05 Martin, S.J., Bassi, S., Dunbar-Rees, R., (2011) Data On File Commitments, Norms & Custard Creams - - A social influence approach to reducing Did Not Attends (DNAs) in primary care
  • 12. Lasting Commitments Are:  Active  Public  Voluntary (Owned)  Written-down
  • 13. Influence At Work / NHS Bedford DNA Study Intervention Stopped 10 5 0 -6.7% -5 Verbal Commitment -10 -20 -30 -18.0% Written Commitment •p=0.05 Martin, S.J., Bassi, S., Dunbar-Rees, R., (2011) Data On File Commitments, Norms & Custard Creams - - A social influence approach to reducing Did Not Attends (DNAs) in primary care
  • 14. Impact of Social Influence What happened when the principle of Consensus was added to the mix?
  • 15. Commonly employed signage in UK Health Centres
  • 16. Intervention Signage in UK Health Centres 95% OF OUR PATIENTS DID
  • 17. Influence At Work / NHS Bedford DNA Study Intervention Stopped 10 +10.1 5 0 -6.7% -5 Verbal Commitment -10 -20 -30 -18.0% -31.4% -29.6% Written Commitment •p=0.05 Written Commitment + Consensus Message Martin, S.J., Bassi, S., Dunbar-Rees, R., (2011) Data On File Commitments, Norms & Custard Creams - - A social influence approach to reducing Did Not Attends (DNAs) in primary care Written Commitment + Consensus Message
  • 18. Impact of Social Influence But, is there any evidence that information about the actions of multiple, similar others would work in other domains, such as household energy usage choices? There is.
  • 19. California Energy Savings Survey Reported Beliefs Regarding the Influence of Each Motive 3.5 3.4 3.3 3.2 3.1 3.0 2.9 Environmental Protection Benefit to Society Saving Neighborhood Money Consensus Different Motives to Conserve Energy
  • 20. California Energy Savings Survey Reported Beliefs Regarding the Influence of Each Motive Correlation of Each Motive with Conservation Behavior .50 3.5 3.4 .40 3.3 .30 3.2 .20 3.1 .10 3.0 .00 2.9 Environmental Protection Benefit to Society Saving Money Descriptive Norm Environmental Benefit to Protection Society Different Motives to Conserve Energy Saving Money Neighborhood Consensus
  • 21. Field Experiment 14.5 14.0 Energy Consumption (kilowatt hours 13.5 consumed per day) 13.0 12.5 Combined Environmental Benefit to Protection Controls Society Saving Neighborhood Money Consensus Energy Conservation Appeal
  • 22. Consensus How can we use this principle to advance national environmental goals? One possibility would be to engage the private sector in the process.
  • 23. OPOWER Report
  • 24. OPOWER Results
  • 25. OPOWER Results In less than 5 years of operation, Opower has partnered with 90 US utilities and has: reduced consequent U. S. energy consumption by over 3 billion kilowatt hours, cut CO2 emissions by nearly 5 billion pounds, and saved residents $355 million in energy costs.
  • 26. Conclusions  Government can rely too much on economic and regulatory levers when seeking to motivate citizens toward policy goals.  Policy-makers would do well, as well, to consider what is known from behavioral and social science research about psychological motivators that can be at least as effective, yet less costly.  Government and its citizens are entitled to know and use the results of that sometimes game-changing research because they have paid for it.

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