Will We Trust Driverless Cars?

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What will it take for humans to be willing to give up control of the wheel? In this HumanTech podcast episode we talk about how the interaction design of a driverless car affects whether or not we trust the car’s decisions.

HumanTech is a podcast at the intersection of humans, brain science, and technology. Your hosts Guthrie and Dr. Susan Weinschenk explore how behavioral and brain science affects our technologies and how technologies affect our brains.

You can subscribe to the HumanTech podcast through iTunes, Stitcher, or where ever you listen to podcasts.

The Ethics Of Persuasion — A Conversation with Nathalie Nahai

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For this HumanTech podcast episode, Nathalie Nahai from the UK joins us for a conversation about whether and when it is ethical to use persuasion techniques in our apps and our websites to get people to take certain actions.

Listen to the podcast and also check out Nathalie’s book: Webs Of Influence.

HumanTech is a podcast that explores the intersection of humans, brain science, and technology. Your hosts Guthrie and Dr. Susan Weinschenk explore how behavioral and brain science affects our technologies and how technologies affect our brains.

You can subscribe to the HumanTech podcast through iTunes, Stitcher, or where ever you listen to podcasts.

365 Ways To Persuade And Motivate: #15-24

For this post I’ve put 10 ways to persuade and motivate altogether in one post!

15. Talk first – Research shows that people like to follow a leader and that the person who talks first when a group gets together becomes the leader.

16. Give a gift – When someone gives you a gift you feel indebted and will likely want to give something in return. If you want to increase the likelihood that someone will do something, give them a gift first, and then ask for what you want/need. Whether a website give away, free trial subscription or free eBook include an informative video – give away something of value before asking for people to sign up or make a purchase.

17. Ask for more than what you need/want – Research shows that people are more likely to say yes to your request if you ask for something larger than what you really want first. When your initial request is denied, come back with a smaller one (the one you really wanted). Not only will they be more likely to say yes, they will be more committed to following through if it is a second request.

18. Use nouns – When you use a noun it evokes group identity. People are more likely to take an action when they feel part of a group. For example, instead of having a button on your website that says “Donate Now,” phrase it as “Be A Donor.” Instead of “Join Now” use “Be A Member.”

19. Say how many other people are doing it – Research shows that we look to what other people are doing to decide what we should do. If we think a lot of people are doing something we are more likely to do it too. Especially if the situation is ambiguous or uncertain. Make reference to how many people have already taken the desired action. “Over 2,500 people have already downloaded the e-book.”

20. Model the behavior – Mirror neurons in our brain make us likely to imitate what others are doing. Show someone else taking the same action. For example, have a video that shows someone filling out the form on the website and pressing the “Sign Me Up” button.

21. Imitate others’ body gestures – In a face-to-face interaction imitate what other people are doing. If they sit back, you should sit back. If they put their hands on the table, put your hands on the table. Research shows that people that imitated the other person’s body language were rated as being more likable and were more persuasive.

22. Be passionate and excited about your idea – Emotions are contagious. If you are passionate and excited about your idea it will be conveyed through your voice and body language and others will become passionate and excited too.

23. Use strong emotions (positive or negative) – If you want something to go viral then use strong emotions. Messages or ideas that include strong emotions go viral more than messages without emotions. It doesn’t even matter if the emotion is positive or negative. Just showing strong emotions inspires people to act.

24. Synchronous behavior – If you want to bond a group have them do something together and preferably something rhythmic. When we engage in rhythmic behavior as a group (singing, drumming, dancing), the neurochemical oxytocin is released. Oxytocin makes us feel a sense of bonding with those around us.

What do you think? Have you used any of these 10?

For more information check out my books, or better yet, sign up for one of our in-person or online video courses.

365 Ways To Persuade And Motivate: #13–Talk to the unconscious

picture of an iceberg“We want them to type in their email and click on the “Join” button”, was the response from my client as I asked him what was the one action he wanted people to take on his landing page. Good. That was clear. But now the question was what else should be on the landing page to persuade people to click.

Like most of my clients the landing page was filled with lots of reasons why the visitor should click and join, but almost all of those reasons were “logical”, and most were about price. The people coming to the landing page didn’t have a relationship with this company yet — it was unlikely they would click and join based on a few weak logical arguments.

I started asking questions:

“What are your potential customers afraid of?”

“What makes them mad or frustrated?”

“Do they feel taken advantage of?”

“How could they feel like they were a hero?”

Silence. My client was ready to tell me all the features and benefits that his service would provide, but he didn’t really know about the emotional state of his potential customers.

That’s not uncommon. In my experience, many teams bringing new products and services to market know only the barest of information about their customers and potential customers, and rarely have done actual audience research on the unconscious needs, emotions, and feelings of their target audience.

Which means that their landing pages, marketing campaigns and advertising are hit and miss at best.

Research in psychology over the past several years shows us clearly that most mental processing occurs unconsciously. Most of the decisions we make are fueled by our unconscious. It is only after we’ve decided to act that we figure out a conscious, logical reason for why we did what we did. We use that conscious logical reason to explain our decisions and actions to ourselves and others, so it’s important to provide those logical reasons. But if you really want to persuade and motivate someone to take action you have to talk to the unconscious. The unconscious understands things like:

  • fear
  • loss
  • sex
  • food
  • love
  • belonging
  • being a hero
  • danger
  • challenge
  • mastery

The unconscious pays attention to words if they are short and evoke feelings. But it pays much more attention to pictures, music, and moving images (i.e. video).

If you want to persuade and motivate people to take action you need to know what they are afraid of, afraid of losing, how they feel they can “save” the day, and/or what will make them feel loved or part of the group. Then you need to use some of those ideas in your words, headlines, and have pictures, video, and music that matches. If you want to persuade and motivate people you have to talk to the unconscious.

What do you think? Do you know the unconscious factors and messages that persuade and motivate your target audience?

If you would like to learn more about the research on unconscious mental processing, I recommend:

Strangers to Ourselves: The Adaptive Unconscious by Timothy Wilson

or my book, How To Get People To Do Stuff

and consider attending my  seminar on The Science of Persuasion.

365 Ways To Persuade And Motivate: #12 – Give them a warm beverage

drawing of a coffee cup with steam

You have an important meeting with a client first thing tomorrow morning. The main contact, Jeremy, is unhappy with some of the deliverables on the last project. He has been a little cold and distant with you on the phone and through email recently. This is the first time he is coming in to the office in a while, and you want to try and break the ice.

According to Joshua Ackerman you should take a somewhat literal interpretation of the idea of breaking the ice. You should try to warm him up by offering him a warm coffee or tea. Use a cup or mug where he can feel the heat through his hands, and, ideally, see if you can get him to hold the beverage while you talk to him.

According to Ackerman’s research this will not only thaw out his hands, but will also make him warm up towards you. When people hold a warm cup then they feel that the person or people they are interacting with have a warmer personality. It’s called “haptic sensations” or “embodied cognition”.

Conversely, DON’T offer Jeremy a cold can of soda or ice water. That will make him judge you as having a cold personality.

Here’s the research:

Ackerman, Joshua M., Christopher Nocera, and John Bargh. 2010. “Incidental haptic sensations influence social judgments and decisions.” Science 328(5986): 1712–15. doi: 10.1126/science.1189993.

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

365 Ways To Persuade And Motivate: #11 Identify The Operating Self-Story

What's Your Story?

Someone knocks on your door. You recognize him as a kid from your neighborhood. He’s selling popcorn as a fundraiser for a club he belongs to at school. The club is trying to go to the state convention. How do you react?

It depends on the story, or persona, you have of yourself when it comes to topics such as school, fundraising, and your relationship to your neighborhood.

Here’s one story you might relate to:

“I’m a very busy person. When I’m at home I want to relax, not get bombarded with people at the door selling things. I don’t like it when people bother me at home with these fundraising schemes. The schools should pay for these trips and not make us buy this overpriced popcorn. This poor kid isn’t to blame, but I’m not going to buy the popcorn because it just perpetuates this behavior. Someone has got to act right on this. I’m the kind of person who does what is right on principle. I’m going to say no nicely, but firmly.”

Or maybe you can relate to this story:

“Oh, isn’t that great that the kids are going to the state convention. I remember when I went on a similar trip when I was in high school. It was really fun. Maybe not all that educational, but definitely fun! I’m the kind of person who encourages students to have lots of experiences outside of our own neighborhood. I am the kind of person who supports the school. I’ll buy some popcorn and help this kid out.”

Or maybe you can relate to this story:

“It kind of annoys me that there are always these kids selling things. But this is part of being a good neighbor. I’m part of the community. I am a good citizen of our neighborhood. I’ll buy the popcorn because that’s what a good community member would do.”

We all have stories we tell ourselves about who we are and why we do what we do. These stories are critical in our behavior. If you want people to change their behavior, one of the most powerful things you can do is get them to first change their self-story. This, in turn, will lead to behavior change. In subsequent posts I’ll explain how this works in more detail.

The first step is to understand what is the current operating self-story. Once you’ve identified that, then you are ready to help the person craft and different story that will lead to different behavior.

What do you think? Are you aware of your own self-stories that affect your behavior? What about the self stories and behavior of people whose behavior you want to change? Friends? Family? Customers? Have you done your research so you know what the current operating self-story is?

The book on the power of stories to change behavior is Redirect, by Timothy Wilson.

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

365 Ways to Persuade And Motivate: #8 Use The Right Reward

Picture of a rat in a skinner boxSince starting to write the last few blog posts on rewards I’ve had some questions on what is a reward. So I thought I’d take this blog to write about what makes a reward a reward and how to pick the “right” one.

When B.F. Skinner researched rewards he didn’t call them rewards. He called them “reinforcers”. In his research an effective reinforcer is anything that, when you give it, results in an increase in the desired behavior. Which means that what is an effective reward depends on what a particular person feels is an effective reward. The list of possible rewards or reinforcers is infinite. What is it that a person might want? Here are some common reinforcers:

  • Money
  • Discounts
  • Food
  • Sex
  • Attention
  • Praise
  • Love
  • Fun

And on and on. In order to pick an effective reward, ideally you know your audience and you know what they want. If you haven’t done that research, then you will be using trial and error to figure out what an effective reward is for your audience. I suggest you do some research ahead of time so you know what to use as a reward for your particular audience and situation.

What do you think? How do you go about picking what is the best reward?

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

365 Ways To Persuade And Motivate: #7 Give Rewards Unpredictably To Sustain A Behavior

picture of slot machines on a casino floorIn the last blog post I wrote about using a continuous reinforcement schedule when you want to establish a new behavior. And I hinted that you should change that schedule after the behavior is established.

One of the reward “schedules” that BF Skinner researched is called a variable ratio schedule. It’s called “variable” because you don’t reward the behavior every time. You vary how often the person gets a reward when they do the target behavior. And it’s called “ratio” because you give a reward based on the number of times a person has done the behavior (rather than, for example, rewarding someone based on time – for example giving a reward the first time the person does the behavior after 5 minutes has elapsed).

In a variable ratio schedule you may decide that you are going to reward the behavior, on average, every 5 times the person does the behavior, but you vary it, so sometimes you give the reward the third time they do the behavior, sometimes the 7th time, sometimes the 2nd time, etc. It averages out to every 5 times.

Let’s take the example of trying to get your employee to turn in expense reports on time. At first you would reward them every time they turn in the expense report on time (as we discussed in the previous blog post on continuous reinforcement).

Once the behavior is established, however, you would then switch to only rewarding them every 3 or 5 or 7 times on average. This is the variable ratio schedule.

Skinner found that variable ratio schedules have two benefits:

a)    they result in the most instances of the behavior than any of the other schedules (i.e., people  will keep handing in the expense report on time), and

b)   they result in behaviors that Skinner said were “hard to extinguish”, which is “psychology speak” for the idea that the behavior persists over time, even when rewards aren’t being given any more.

If you want to see another example of a variable ratio schedule, go to a casino. Slot machines are a very effective example of a variable ratio schedule. The casinos have studied the science of rewards and they use them to get people to play and keep playing.

Can you think of any more variable ratio schedule examples that you’ve experienced or tried?

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

365 Ways To Persuade And Motivate: #6 Reward Every Time To Establish A New Behavior

Picture that says reward pointsRewards are one of the most common ways that people think of to get other people to do stuff. In the talks that I give on the topic I tell people that rewards are actually one of the least effective ways to get people to do stuff! Rewards are one of the seven ways I cover in my book How To Get People To Do Stuff. And almost all of the other 6 are more powerful than using rewards.

But, having given that caveat, people are used to giving and receiving rewards. So if you are going to use rewards to motivate people, you’d better know the science behind rewards. There are effective ways to use rewards and ineffective ways.

in the 1950’s B.F. Skinner researched rewards — when to give them and how often to give them. He described reward “schedules” and the effect of using different schedules. For example, should you reward someone every time they do the behavior you are looking for? Or just sometimes?

In this post I want to tackle the question of what schedule to use if you are trying to establish a new behavior. In future posts I’ll cover what kind of reward schedule to use after the behavior is established.

Let’s say that you have an employee that doesn’t turn in his expense reports on time. You decide to try out using rewards to encourage him to get the expense reports in. Since he currently doesn’t ‘do this behavior, you are trying to establish a new behavior. In this situation the best thing to do is to reward him every time he turns his expense report in on time.

Or, in another example, let’s say that you want your customers to use a new feature  of your software that you provide as an online app. It’s new, so they aren’t used to using it. It hasn’t become part of their usual way of using your product. You should reward them (for example, with points, or a credit towards next month’s bill) every time that they use the feature.

These are examples of “continuous reinforcement schedules” — you reward every time the behavior occurs. In the next blog post I’ll explain what you should do after the new behavior is established. So stay tuned!

What do you think? Have you tried using rewards to get people to do stuff? Have you tried using a continuous reinforcement schedule to establish new behavior?

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


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.