365 Ways To Persuade And Motivate: #4 Give People Autonomy

screenshot from Fluenz language softwareIn the previous blog post in this series I wrote that one of the best ways to motivate people is to stimulate a desire for mastery – and that breaking things into small pieces and showing progress through the pieces encourages the desire for mastery.

Another tip for stimulating the desire for mastery is to give people autonomy.  When people feel that they have some control over what they are doing and how they do it then their desire for mastery increases. They will then be motivated to continue and keep learning.

If people feel that they don’t have any control or autonomy then they lose the desire to learn and do more – they lose the desire to master whatever task you are asking them to do.

Here’s an example: Let’s say that you have created a language learning app. The desire for mastery will be automatically in play if the person wants to learn a language. However, if you want people to continue using the app, and use it frequently and often, then you need to do more than just present lessons in the app. One way to further stimulate the desire for mastery, is to give them some control over how they use the app. You can provide different types of exercises and interactions, such as listening, writing, or speaking the language, and let them choose which exercises and activities they need or want, and in what order to do them. If they feel they have control over how quickly they go through the lessons, which ones they repeat,  which activities to engage in, and in what order, then they will be more motivated to keep learning.

What do you think? Have you used tried giving autonomy to keep people motivated?

To learn more check out our 1 day seminar on The Science of Persuasion.

365 Ways To Persuade And Motivate: #3 Small Steps

screenshot of 5k appOne of the best ways to motivate people is to stimulate a desire for mastery. People are naturally curious and this curiosity helps people master their environment. People want to learn, improve, and master skills and knowledge.

One of the things you can do to stimulate this sense of mastery is to break things into small steps. Why is that important? Because it makes it easy for people to see their progress, and seeing progress makes people want to keep going.

If you’ve ever used one of the exercising applications, for example “Couch to 5k” or the “10k runner” you will know what I mean. These are apps that you use on your smartphone. They map out an exercise period. You turn on the app as you start your exercise session and the app tells you what to do along the way. At the beginning a voice says for you to walk for 5 minutes to warm up. After that the voice tells you to start running. Two minutes later the voice prompts you to slow down and walk. During the exercise session your screen shows your progress. (See the picture at the top of this blog post). You can see how much time you have been exercising, how much time you have left in the session, and how much time is left in the particular part of this session (for example, you have 30 seconds left to run before it’s time to walk again).

You also get feedback on where you are in the entire 9 week program, for example, you are on Day 2 in the 3rd week. By breaking the entire 9 weeks, and each particular session into small steps, the app can always be showing progress, and that constant feedback on progress towards the goal is very motivating.

You can apply this principle to anything that you want people to do and/or keep doing. Other examples are having people learn a language, or master the steps to be a barista at a coffee shop. Or keeping your audience’s attention and engagement while you are teaching a seminar.

What do you think? Have you used this technique of breaking things into small pieces and showing progress to keep people motivated?

To learn more check out our 1 day seminar on The Science of Persuasion.

365 Ways To Persuade & Motivate: #2 Use The Word “Because”

picture of people waiting in lineIn the first blog post of this new “365” series I cited new research on eye contact. But sometimes I think it’s important to go back to “foundational” (i.e. old!) research. So #2 in the series comes from research conducted in 1978.  Ellen Langer (Professor of Psychology at Harvard) published a research study about the power of the word “because”.

Langer had people request to break in on a line of people waiting to use a busy copy machine  on a college campus. (Remember that this is in the 1970′s — there weren’t computers and printers. People did a lot more copying back then, so there were often lines waiting to use a copy machine). The researchers had the people use three different, carefully worded requests to break in line:

  1. “Excuse me, I have 5  pages.  May I use the xerox machine?”
  2. “Excuse me, I have 5  pages.  May I use the xerox machine, because I have to make copies?”
  3. “Excuse me, I have 5  pages.  May I use the xerox machine, because I’m in a rush?”

Did the wording effect whether people let them break in line? Here are the results:

  1. “Excuse me, I have 5  pages.  May I use the xerox machine?” [60% compliance]
  2. “Excuse me, I have 5  pages.  May I use the xerox machine, because I have to make copies?”[93% compliance]
  3. “Excuse me, I have 5  pages.  May I use the xerox machine, because I’m in a rush?” [94% compliance]

Using the word “because” and giving a reason resulted in significantly more compliance. This was true even when the reason was not very compelling (“because I have to make copies”). The researchers hypothesize that people go on “automatic” behavior or “mindlessness” as a form of a heuristic, or short-cut. And hearing the word “because” followed by a reason (no matter how lame the reason is), causes us to comply.

They also repeated the experiment for a request to copy 20 pages rather than five. In that case, only the  “because I’m in a rush” reason resulted in compliance.

So what does this all mean?:

When the stakes are low people will engage in automatic behavior.  If your request is small then follow the request with the word “because” and give any reason.

If the stakes are high, then there is a little more resistance, but still not too much. Use the word “because” and try to come up with at least a slightly more compelling reason.

What do you think? Has this worked for you?

Here’s the research citation:

Langer, E., Blank, A., & Chanowitz, B. (1978). The mindlessness of Ostensibly Thoughtful Action: The Role of “Placebic” Information in Interpersonal Interaction.  Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 36(6), 635-642.

To learn more check out our 1 day seminar on The Science of Persuasion.

New Series: 365 Ways To Persuade & Motivate

If you’ve been following my blog posts for a while you probably know that a few years ago I did a series called “100 Things You Need To About People”. It was a popular series that finished in April of 2011. Since then I’ve been writing individual blog posts, and wondering if I could/should come up with another series.

Well, I’m jumping in again, starting today. I’ve decided to do a new series called “365 Ways To Persuade & Motivate”. I’d like to do a blog a day for a year, but don’t hold me to that! I don’t know if I can really get a blog out every single day!

You can check out the first post of the series here.

Hope you enjoy the new series!

How To Get People To Do Stuff

bookcoverAre you good with people? Do you know how to get them to do stuff? Are you using tips and techniques you picked up from others or experimented with? If so, I bet that sometimes your strategies work and other times they don’t.

There are 7 basic drivers of human motivation. And if you understand what motivates people you’ll be better able to figure out how to get people to do stuff. That’s the premise of my new book that just hit the shelves. Some of my previous video posts are topics from the new book, and I’ll be posting more video blogs as time goes on. In the meantime, here’s a summary of the 7 drivers of motivation:

The Need to Belong

Have you ever felt left out? Not part of a group you wanted to be part of? It probably made you feel sad, depressed or angry, or all of the above. We are ultimately social animals, and our desire to connect with others is a strong, innate drive. We’re not meant to live alone, and we’ll work hard to be socially accepted. We need to feel that we have a place in the world where we belong.

You can use the need to belong, and the longing for connectedness, to get people to do stuff.

For example:

  • If you use nouns when making a request, rather than verbs – for example: “Be a donor” versus “Donate now” –  it results in more people taking action. That’s because nouns invoke group identity.
  • People are more likely to comply with a request if they trust you.
  • The best way to get others to trust you is to first show that you trust them.

Habits

It might surprise you to learn how much of everything we do in a typical day we do out of habit without even thinking about it. We don’t even remember how those habits got formed.

We hear so much about how it takes months to create a new habit. How could that be, when we seem to have created hundreds of them easily without even realizing it? It turns out that it’s actually very easy to create a new habit or even change an existing one, if you understand the science behind habit formation. You can use the science of habits to help other people create or change habits, so you can get them to do stuff. Here’s a little bit of information about the science of habits:

  • The easiest way to create a new habit is to anchor it to an existing habit.
  • If you use anchoring you can get people to create a new habit in less than a week.
  • An important part of getting someone to create a new habit is to break things into really small steps.

The Power of Stories

What kind of person are you? Are you someone who helps those in need? Do you keep up on the latest trends and fashions? Are you a family person who spends time and energy to nurture family relationships?

We all have self-personas. We tell ourselves, and other people, stories about who we are and why we do what we do. Some of our self-personas and our stories are conscious, but others are largely unconscious.

If you understand these self-personas, then you can communicate in a way that matches those self-stories and thereby get people to do stuff. For example:

  • If you can get people to take one small action that is in conflict with one of their self-personas, that one small step can eventually lead to big behavior change.
  • You can prompt someone to change their own story by having other people share their stories. If someone hears the right story you can get people to change their own self-stories in as little as 30 minutes and that one change can alter their behavior for a lifetime.
  • Writing something down (in longhand, not typing) activates certain parts of the brain and makes it more likely that people will commit to what they wrote.

Carrots and Sticks

Have you ever been to a casino? Think about this: You spend a lot of time and energy trying to get people to do stuff; you may even offer rewards or pay people to do stuff. And yet a casino gets people to pay them!

Casinos understand the science of reward and reinforcement. Here are just a few things the science of reward and reinforcement tells us about how to get people to do stuff:

  • If you want consistent behavior don’t reward people every time they do something, just some of the time.
  • People are more motivated to reach a goal the closer they get to it.
  • Let’s say you own a coffee shop and give people a stamp for each cup of coffee they buy. After 10 stamps they get a free coffee. Did you know that as soon as they get that free coffee their coffee buying and drinking behavior will slow down for a while?
  • When you punish someone it only works for a little while. Giving rewards is more effective than punishment.

Instincts

Imagine you’re driving down the road and there’s an accident ahead. You tell yourself not to slow down and look, and yet you feel the irresistible urge to do exactly that.

Being fascinated by danger is one of our basic instincts. Instincts are strong and largely unconscious. They affect our behavior. Sometimes you can get people to do stuff just by tapping into these instincts. For example:

  • People are more motivated by fear of losing than the possibility of gaining something.
  • We are basically all “control freaks”. The desire to control starts as young as 4 months old.
  • When people are sad or scared they will want is familiar. If they’re happy and comfortable they’ll crave something new.

The Desire for Mastery

Even stronger than giving an external reward is the desire for mastery. People are very motivated to learn and master skills and knowledge.

Certain situations encourage a desire for mastery, and others dampen the desire for mastery. You can use what we know from the research on mastery to set up conditions that will encourage and stimulate the desire for mastery, and, by doing so, get people to do stuff. For example:

  • Giving people autonomy over what they are doing will stimulate them to master a skill and will motivate them to work harder.
  • If people feel that something is difficult they will be more motivated to do it.
  • Don’t mix praise with feedback if you want to stimulate the desire for mastery. Just give objective feedback.

Tricks of the Mind

You’ve probably seen visual illusions—where your eye and brain think they’re seeing something different than they really are. What you may not realize is that there are cognitive illusions, too. There are several biases in how we think. Our brains are wired to jump to quick conclusions. This is useful in reacting quickly to our environment, but sometimes these fast conclusions and decisions lead to cognitive illusions. You can use these tricks of the mind to get people to do stuff. For example:

  • If you mention money then people become more independent and less willing to help others.
  • People filter out information they don’t agree with, but you can get past those filters by first agreeing with them.
  • People are more likely to do something if you can get them to phrase it as a question to themselves (Will I exercise each week?) than if you get them to say a declarative statement (I will exercise each week.)

If you understand what motivates people, then you can change and modify what you do, what you offer, and how and what you ask of people. You can change your strategies and tactics to get people to do stuff.

I hope you’ll consider buying the book! If you are interested, my publisher, Peachpit, is offering a 35% coupon code to purchase the book in print or as a PDF. The code is DOSTUFF and you can use it at the book website.

Or, if you prefer Amazon, here’s a link to the Amazon page:

How To Get People To Do Stuff: #1 — Use Nouns Instead Of Verbs

"I am a voter"This blog post is the first of a new series called “How To Get People To Do Stuff”. It features nuggets from the book I am writing by the same name due out in March of 2013.

I’m also starting a new format of doing video blogs. So first is the video, and then below it is the text that I talk about in the video.

Let me know what you think about the new topic series and whether you like the video format!

Here’s the research:

Walton, Gregory and Banaji, Mahzarin, Being what you say: the effect of essentialist linguistic labels on preferences, Social Cognition, Vol. 22, No. 2, 2004, pp. 193-213.

In a survey about voting, Gregory Walton at Stanford sometimes asked  “How important is it to you to be a voter in tomorrow’s election?” versus  “How important is it to you to vote in tomorrow’s election?”

The first sentence was phrased so that the emphasis was on the noun, “voter”. The second sentence emphasized “to vote”. Did the wording make a difference?

11% more voted — When the the noun (be a voter) was used instead of the verb (to vote), 11% more people actually voted the following day.  Why would nouns affect behavior more than verbs?

Needing to belong — I had always learned that using direct verbs resulted in more action. But if using a noun invokes group identity, that will trump a direct verb. People have a strong need to feel that they belong. People identify themselves in terms of the groups they belong to and this sense of group can deeply affect their behavior. You can stimulate group identity just by the way you have people talk about themselves or the way you phrase a question. For example, research shows that if people say “I am a chocolate eater” versus “I eat chocolate a lot” it will affect how strong their preference is for chocolate. “Eater” is a noun. “Eat” is a verb.

When you are trying to get people to do stuff try using nouns rather than verbs. Invoke a sense of belonging to a group and it is much more likely that people will comply with your request.

What do you think? Have you tried nouns instead of verbs?

100 Things You Should Know About People: #85 — More People = Less Desire To Compete

Runners in a raceDid you take standardized tests to get into college? Like the SAT and ACT? How many people were in the room when you took the test? Does it matter? Research by Stephen Garcia and Avishalom Tor shows that it may matter a lot.

Less people = higher scores — Garcia and Tor first compared SAT scores for locations that had a lot of people in the room taking the test versus locations that had smaller numbers. They adjusted the scores to control for the educational budget in that region and other factors. Students who took the SAT test in a room with less people scored higher.

You’ll try harder if you have a good chance of winning — Garcia and Tor hypothesized that when there are just a few competitors, you (perhaps unconsciously) feel that you can come out on top, and so you try harder. And, the theory goes, when there are more people, then it is harder to assess where you stand and therefore you are not as motivated to try to come out on top. They called this the N-effect (N standing for number as in formulas).

Continue reading “100 Things You Should Know About People: #85 — More People = Less Desire To Compete”

100 Things You Should You Know About People: #82 — People Are Motivated By Progress And Mastery

Why do people donate their time and creative thought process to Wikipedia? Or the open source movement? When you stop and think about it you realize that there are many activities that people engage in, even over a long period of time, that require high expertise, and yet are of no monetary or even career building benefit. People like to feel that they are making progress. They like to feel that they are learning and mastering new knowledge and skills.

Small signs of progress can have a large effect — Because mastery is such a powerful motivator, even small signs of progress can have a large effect in motivating people move forward to the next step in a task. At Linked In, they encourage you to finish filling in information on your profile by showing you how much information you have already answered.

Picture of Linked In

LiveMocha is a website where you can learn languages. They have several forms of mastery and progress built in:

At a glance you can see where you are in the course, where you are in the lesson, and how much progress you have made overall.

They have points that you can earn by completing your training, as well as by helping other people learn a language you already know. The points can be accumulated and redeemed for access to premium learning exercises.

Everytime you sign on to LiveMocha you see a dashboard that shows your progress.

Daniel Pink has a great animated video about motivation and mastery from his book, Drive.

What do you think? Are you motivated by mastery?

 

 

100 Things You Should Know About People: #81 — Intrinsic Rewards Trump Extrinsic Rewards

Picture of a Good Drawing CertificateLet’s say you are an art teacher, and you want to encourage your students to spend more time practicing their drawing. You create a “Good Drawing Certificate” to give to your students. If your goal is to have them draw more, and for them to stick with it, how should you give them the certificate? Should you give them one every time they draw? Or only sometimes? Lepper, Greene and Nisbett conducted research on this question way back in 1973. They divided children into 3 groups:

Group 1, the Expected Group — The researchers showed the children the “Good Drawing Certificate” and asked if they wanted to draw in order to get the certificate.

Group 2, the Unexpected group — The researchers asked the children if they wanted to draw, but didn’t mention anything about a certificate. After the children spent time drawing, they received an (unexpected) drawing certificate.

Group 3, the Control Group — The researchers asked the children if they wanted to draw, but didn’t mention a certificate and didn’t give them one.

What happened 2 weeks later? — The real part of the experiment came 2 weeks later. During playtime the drawing tools were put out in the room. The children weren’t asked anything about drawing, the tools were just put in the room and available. So what happened?  Children in Groups 2 and 3, the Unexpected and the Control Groups spent the most time drawing. The children in Group 1, the ones who had received an expected reward, spent the least time drawing. “Contingent” rewards (rewards given based on specific behavior that is spelled out ahead of time) resulted in less of the desired behavior. Later the researchers went on to do more studies like this, and with adults as well as children, finding similar results.

What do you think? Do you use intrinsic or extrinsic rewards at your workplace? At your website?

And if you like to read the research:

Lepper, M., Greene, D., & Nisbett, R. (1973). Undermining children’s intrinsic interest with extrinsic rewards. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 28, 129-137.

 

 

 

100 Things You Should Know About People: #38 — Even The Illusion Of Progress Is Motivating

Picture of graph showing the goal gradient effectYou are given a frequent buyer card for your local coffeeshop. Each time you buy a cup of coffee you get a stamp on your card. When the card is filled you get a free cup of coffee. Here are two different scenarios:

Card A: The card has 10 boxes for the stamps, and when you get the card all the boxes are blank.

Card B: The card has 12 boxes for the stamps, and when you get the card the first two boxes are already stamped.

Question: How long will it take you to get the card filled up? Will it take longer or shorter for scenario A vs. scenario B? After all, you have to buy 10 cups of coffee in both scenarios in order to get the free coffee. So does it make a difference which card you use?

The answer apparently is yes. You will fill up the card faster with Card B than with Card A. And the reason is called the “goal-gradient” effect.

The goal-gradient effect was first studied in 1934 by Hull with rats. He found that rats that were running a maze to get food at the end would run faster as they got to the end of the maze.

The goal-gradient effect says that you will accelerate your behavior as you progress closer to your goal. The scenarios I describe above were part of a research study by Ran Kivetz, Oleg Urminsky, and Yuhuang Zheng (full reference is below).  They decided to see if humans would behave like the rats. And the answer is, yes they do.

Here are some important things to keep in mind about the goal-gradient effect:

  • The shorter the distance to the goal the more motivated people will be to reach it.
  • You can get this extra motivation even with the illusion of progress, as in Scenario B above. There really isn’t any progress (you still have to buy 10 coffees), but it seems like there is some progress so it has the same effect
  • People enjoy being part of the reward program. When compared to customers who were not part of the program, the customers with the reward cards smiled more, chatted longer with café employees, said “thank you” more often and left a tip more often (all statistically significant for you research buffs out there).
  • In a related experiment the same researchers showed that people would visit a web site more frequently and rate more songs during each visit as they got closer to a reward goal at the site. So this goal-gradient effect appears to be generalizable across many situations.
  • Motivation and purchases plummet right after the goal is reached. This is called a “post-reward resetting phenomenon”.  If you have a 2nd reward level people will initially not be very motivated to reach that 2nd reward. Right after a reward is reached is when you are most at risk of losing your customer.

And for those of you who want to read the original research:

Ran Kivetz, Oleg Urminsky, and Yuhuang Zheng, The Goal-Gradient Hypothesis Resurrected:Purchase Acceleration, Illusionary Goal Progress, and Customer Retention, Journal of Marketing Research, 39 Vol. XLIII (February 2006), 39–58.

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