COVID-19 is a rare moment in time when individual behavior can have a profound effect on society.
To address some of negative impactspoliticians communicate with the public using a style familiar to all who look after children: persuasive and direct calls to stop participating in worthless activities.
Take an example of accumulation. A week ago Prime Minister Scott Morrison said: “Stop saving. I cannot be harsher about this. Enough … This is one of the most disappointing things I've seen in Australia's behavior in response to this crisis. "
Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews and New South Wales Prime Minister Gladys Berezhiklyan used a similar "stop doing this" communication.
Obviously, this is caused by disappointment. But this approach to behavior change can do more harm than good for three reasons that are well known in behavioral science: negative regulatory messages, paternalistic messages and unreliable messengers.
Saying “don't do” something makes behavior more likely
In the behavioral sciences, it is widely known that our impressions of what other people do affect our own behavior.
IN research work conducted by leading researchers in psychology, including Wes Schulz and Robert CialdiniPeople were informed about how much energy their neighbors use to see how this will affect their own use.
It is important to note that this affected users with high and low power consumption in different ways: users with high levels of consumption reduced their use, and users with low levels of consumption increased theirs.
The lesson here is that people look for signals – consciously and unconsciously – that tell them that behavior is normal, and that perception has a strong influence on their own behavior.
Therefore, when leaders say “stop doing something,” people can interpret it as “a lot of people do it, otherwise they would not say no and“ because many people do it, that's fine. "
Thus, the message may have the opposite effect of what is intended – unwanted behavior increases because it is perceived as normal.
One positive campaign that worked
As researchers of behavior, we used this established principle to create a successful public campaign in Victoria.
A few years ago, Victoria's Department of Health and Welfare was confronted with unnecessary calls to an emergency call center, which is growing faster than population growth.
Our preliminary study found that previous “don't do this” messaging campaigns caused an increase in unnecessary calls up to 000 because they promoted “negative rates”.
So, we focused on the opposite – a positive (do it) campaign, Saving lives. Rescue ambulances for emergencies. Follow-up campaign Meet the team alternatives to dialing 000 for treating minor illnesses have been highlighted – pharmacies, a nurse call service and local general practitioners.
These campaigns have been successful in attitude to the proper use of ambulance, which leads to changes in the behavior of the target – less unnecessary calls per 000Ambulance Victoria CEO Tony Walker said“In my opinion, it helped save lives … We saw a reduction in the number of calls — about 50 less per day, and so 10 ambulances were available.”
Why top-down messaging is inefficient
When politicians send a message in a paternalistic way to voters, it can also be ineffective for at least two reasons.
First, the behavior that politicians are trying to correct may seem ideal. reasonable and rational for people doing this. Thus, scolding people for such behavior is likely to be ineffective. (For example, they may say: “I have a different situation because …” or “I am doing this for my family.”)
As a result, the message and / or source will be rejected. This can lead to people refusing future messages from politicians.
Another problem is that messaging is top-down threatens our autonomy – one of the most important human needs, and one is directly related to welfare.
When autonomy is at stake, people react differently. These include expressions of mistrust (“I don’t like this”) or doubt (“is this necessary?”), Avoiding communication and, most importantly in the context of COVID-19, attempts to restore autonomy by ignoring the changes.
The paternalistic tone is compounded by the fact that, unfortunately, politicians are not the scent of the month.
Studies show that federal and state governments have a record low confidence: nearly two-thirds of people think politicians lack honesty and honesty.
And as highlighted in recent report published by Australian and New Zealand government schoolsA solution to this problem, such as COVID-19, is not a "quick fix."
How to change messages?
So what should the government do differently in its reports on coronavirus? Here are some simple strategies.
First, emphasize positive behavior. Thanks to people for their good behavior, what Berezhiklyan also did to herA good start. It may also depend on how well communities have responded to the summer forest fire crisis. For example, a positive message might say: “Like forest fires, Australians care about each other in response to COVID-19. Many people heed the advice to stay at home. It saves lives. ”
Second, change the paternalistic tone to a more inclusive language that makes people feel part of the change. Governments and other envoys should strengthen messages that say, “Together we fight the virus to save lives.”
Finally, consider other messengers. For example, older, respected Australians, such as former AFL player Ron Barassi or former governor general Quentin Bryce, may be good supporters of non-compliance. The voices of respected figures such as these can reach people who set up everything politicians say.
This is an incredibly difficult time for governments and other leaders. They receive the best advice from medical experts, based on the best available knowledge about what behavior can smooth the curve of coronavirus infections.
Adding insights from behavioral science can help maximize the effectiveness of the messages they transmit.
Stay positive, Scott Morrison: when you scold people for bad behavior, they do it more often (2020, March 27)
restored March 28, 2020
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