How to Get People to do The Right Thing


Best selling author and wildly popular behaviour scientist Dan Pink has revealed through his fascinating National Geographic programme, Crowd Control, a number of ways to get others to do the right thing. Pink is well known for using behavioural science and academic theories to explain everyday irritations, from dirty restrooms to speeding motorists, and he does so in a way that is interesting, accessible and… fun, using “diabolical psychology for the greater good”. Moreover, he has been ranked as one of the top business thinkers worldwide, and his discussion on the science of motivation is one of the most watched TED talks ever. Read on for some of his suggestions on how to get others to do what you need them to do.

#1 Show Them the (explicit) Consequences of Their Actions

In Pink’s ‘Sunscreen experiment’ designed to encourage sunbathers to use sunscreen on their bodies, beachgoers were invited into a ‘Future Booth’ that would show them the future effects on their faces of exposure to the sun. The results were startling, with the percentage of those who said they would use sunscreen nearly doubling. You can watch the fascinating video about the experiment here.

#2 Give Them a Reason why They Need  to Change

In a ‘queue jumping’ experiment, Pink’s team set up a hidden camera and procured the services of two random volunteers to see which one would succeed in jumping a queue. One of the volunteers was told to offer a reason for the request; the other was instructed not to offer a reason. The volunteer offering the reason was successful 95% of the time in jumping the queue, the other volunteer was unsuccessful each time, a result that has been corroborated in other studies. You can watch the clip here.

#3 Focus on How You Deliver Your Communication

Pink’s team have found that making requests with compliments and optimism produces positive results; they suggest starting your request with a compliment and “remaining optimistic”. According to the team, people are twice as likely to remain positive to your message if delivered in this way, than in a “neutral” fashion.

#4 Invoke Empathy: Make it Personal

In an attempt to find a means of stopping people from illegally parking in disabled bays, Pink and his team placed an image of a disabled person in a wheelchair above the bay, with the simple caption, “Think of me, keep it free”. This intervention – letting offenders see their victims - resulted in the elimination of illegal parking in disabled parking bays. As Pink highlights, human beings have an innate capacity for empathy; to see things from another’s perspective. By invoking empathy in others, we can help to generate the desired behaviour change.

#5 Surprise People With  Fun ‘Rewards’ for  Doing the Right Thing

Pink’s premise is that by making it fun or interesting for people to do the right thing, they are more likely to oblige. In one experiment, he introduced a ‘musical road’, whereby drivers, who drove at the required speed limit, were rewarded with the music of ‘America the Beautiful’ being played. In another example, reported in the Huffington Post, Pink describes his experiment to reduce speeding by automatically entering those who drive at the correct speed limit into a lottery. Another example is his ‘talking trashcan’ to encourage more recycling.

The common theme across all of Pink’s experiments is the need to personalise communication in order to change behaviour. Whether that’s through making people confront the consequences of their actions, face their victims, or finding pleasurable ways for them to comply, the principle is the same – people have to feel personally involved for them to want to change their behaviour.

National Geographic
YouTube Dan Pink
Huffington Post




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