Want to know what one of the most common human behavioral patterns is? You already know, really.
It's our herd behavior. We just about always act in a way that mirrors what the people around us are doing.
We are also naturally competitive. We want to be in the herd, but we also want to be better than our other herd members.
We can use these two simple behavioral drivers to use the power of social comparison to help motivate people (or schools or companies) to do more good things.
Opower is a company that includes a small yet powerful chart in every resident's electricity bill. The chart shows people how much energy they are using in relation to their neighbors. Households get a smiley face on their bill if their energy reduction has been good. They get a double smiley face if they’ve been really good! Double Rainbow OMG!
Watch the video from the founder. This video was one of my key moments that introduced me to behavioural psychology.
Every year, Greenpeace releases their annual Guide to Greener Electronics which involves rating and ranking all of the big tech companies by their eco-friendliness. Each year, there are winners and losers.
The Carbon Disclosure Project enables the process of comparing companies to each other based on their carbon emissions. The Carbon Disclosure Project produces a list of the largest publicly listed companies, all ranked by the amount of carbon they releases per quantity of revenue.
You can use numbers to tell a compelling visual story you can use to encourage change.
When you want to tell a story, it’s great to tell it in numbers. It’s even better if you can show an image of those numbers.
1. How big the numbers look in real matter, such as a barrel, a bottle, or a cloud.
2. Show the audience’s/reader’s/player’s individual score as a graphic such as a drop of water.
3. Show a nearby players score as a similar graphic that clearly illustrate the size difference.
I grabbed this great example from the Ben & Jerry’s website. They have worked out that a tub of ice cream releases two pounds of carbon emissions. They added the car graphic which makes it really easy to understand.
What I’d like to see is a graphic for their dairy-free (almond) based ice-cream compared to their dairy ice-cream.
Show the volume of water represented as:
How much water you use in a day
How much water your neighbors use in a day
How much water an average person in India uses in day
Show annual energy usage based on your household size:
You live by yourself
You live with one other person
You live with two other people
(Hint: living together with other people is one of the most impactful things you can do to cut your own carbon emissions. Living alone is bad for the earth, yo! )
Compare the climate impact of a meat vs a veggie burger.
Your meat burger lunch @ 800 calories
Your veggie burger lunch @ 800 calories
Beef vs a plant based meal is always a fun one because beef is soooo environmentally intensive.
Compare the carbon emissions of your audience’s car with an electric car.
Pollution from your car
Pollution from an electric car
You could use a graphic like this to prepare people to ask them to write a pledge to switch to an electric car when they next trade in their vehicle.
An example I use in my video course “How to Save the World with Gamification” is a letter comparing a target country with the next most closely performing counties showing the amount of household waste they create.
If you're interested in more ideas, make sure you download the free Gamified Earth Matrix I put together.
There is a catch when it comes to comparison that can cause the technique to backfire. If we show a high performing person how they are doing in a chart, they will see how different they are from the group and the law of social proof will pull their performance backwards towards the group average. But good news that this phenomenon can be avoided by adding an emotive indicator such as a smily face and some words like “great job!” to positively reinforce the high performance individual.
The exciting thing about getting the kind of data we need to compare members of a group, is that data opens up a myriad of behavior and gamification techniques that just aren't available to us if we don't have measurement at the core of our strategy.
The theory of disclosure shows us that just showing data has a powerful effect on our behavior. When we add the technique of social comparison by ranking from best to worst, we can really kick our audience into action.
You can learn more about many of these techniques in my video course "Save the World with Gamification".
We don’t need to waste our time making environmental programs that don’t necessarily work, and just “hoping” that they will start to work . . . someday.
What's really exciting that it is quite possible that if we can just focus our strategies on data, comparison and rank, and then people will just make the change we want them to of their own accord. When we know the rules of the herd, we can push the herd in the right direction and they will keep running . . . to a better place.
I'm extremely fascinated by the potential of social competition for change. I think we are at the very beginning of the changes we can see with better use of the tools of behavioral psychology. With these gamification techniques and tools, we can make changing the world the really fun, imaginative and colorful experience it should.
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Check out the other articles in the 21 Days of Gamification series.