Using Behavioral Science to Make Organizational Change Lasting and Effective
Asking people to interpret statistics and numbers is not the most efficient way to communicate information – after all, scientific studies show that humans are notoriously bad at interpreting them. Coupling behavioral science insights with strategic design is key to gaining and retaining heightened public attention to government-provided data.
Framing and priming are two effective techniques to present data to inspire action.
Framing involves analyzing how individuals make different decisions based on how an organization presents the information to them. This works largely because the brain creates mental shortcuts by using relative comparisons and not absolute judgments. Government agencies can use framing by:
Presenting information in a positive way – People are more likely to have a strong bias towards things they believe are more positive. Present data and statistics clearly and positively, using an optimistic, “glass half-full” approach
Tracking progress for a long-term goal – The closer people are to reaching a goal, the more motivated they become to complete it. Present a visual timeline with key steps taken and upcoming goals. In turn, the public feels they can hold the government more accountable, and that they are involved in daily decision-making. This increases their desire to consume data
Setting the context for the information – Context is an important element of framing. Individuals tend to anchor their thoughts and decisions to the first piece of information they receive, regardless of relevance. When releasing and presenting data, first identify the most important idea you want to relay. Make that idea the first statistic the customer sees
Priming is a technique where organizations unknowingly expose individuals to a stimulus that may subconsciously influence their behavior or understanding of a subsequent task or information.
To use priming to nudge customers or citizens:
Remove trigger points from information – This increases positive reception of data. For example, removing a currency symbol from a price can increase spending by twelve percent.1 When presenting data, remove all unnecessary and extraneous information. Make your numbers clear, your graphics easily understandable, remove signs, and create a key elsewhere on the document or website or presentation for reference
Appeal to sensory priming – This influences behavior. By appealing to sight, sound, smell, taste, and touch, the government can incorporate use a variety of channels to deliver a message. In presenting data, create a sensory appealing presentation. Think through your presenter, give your audience tangible ideas, and create a short and powerful demonstration
By using behavioral science to recognize what makes data easy to understand and why, government agencies and data analytics teams can test ways to present and visualize their data to better inform the public and facilitate decisions for the good of society.
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