Translation is not your friend

Indian-woman,-one-finger-up,“What does this mean?” asked Ha Na Park as she held up one finger in the air. Park was speaking last Monday at Social Marketing SPARKS 2014. 

  • If the question is what number, it means “one.”
  • If the question is which direction, it means “up.”
  • If the question is which part of the body, it means “finger.”

It all depends on the context. It’s important to keep context in mind when translating English words into another language.

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What’s wrong with your message? Make it more emotional

Girl and puppy on lawn

What’s more likely to get you to stop using pesticides on your lawn? Facts about possible impacts of pesticides on streams? Or the idea that you might harm your kids and pets by using pesticides?

When I worked on reducing pesticide use (for the Local Hazardous Waste Management Program in King County), we found that talking about health threats to children was much more effective than talking about water quality. Research shows that people are more motivated to act to protect their kids than to protect the environment.

It’s really not surprising. People have strong feelings about their children and want to protect them. Evoking emotions makes people more likely to act than evoking thoughts. [Read more…]

Cool resource to help think through ways to change behavior

behavioral_cake_hero_warmerThe next time you’re planning a behavior change project, take a look at Artefact’s behavior change strategy cards. They can help you brainstorm new ideas.

The set of 23 cards was created as a way to take insights from fields like behavioral economics and cognitive psychology and help make them practical tools. They’re attractive, with not too many words, making them easy to use.

I’ve been working on changing people’s environmental behavior for many years. But I found that the cards gave me some new insights and things to try. [Read more…]

Eating cookies or socializing: Changing the habit loop

Coworkers in cafeteria

Before Charles Duhigg could lose weight, he needed to understand the cue that took him to the cafeteria every day to buy a cookie.

Why did he eat a cookie as a mid-afternoon break?

Every day at about 3:30 Charles Duhigg would go to the cafeteria, buy a cookie and chat with his co-workers. This habit had led to a weight gain of eight pounds. If he wanted to lose weight, the experts said, he first had to figure out his habit loop. [Read more…]

The Super Bowl and supersize bowls

Football fans and foodAmericans are fat. More than two-thirds of adults in the U.S. are overweight or obese.

Big portions are a big reason. Drinks, snacks and meals have all gotten bigger over time. As portion sizes increase, people get fatter.

Our perceptions play a role. An experiment conducted at a Super Bowl party found that people who were served snacks from large (four-liter) bowls ate 56 percent more than people served from smaller (two-liter) bowls. The larger bowl made portions look smaller. If you don’t want your friends to overeat, use smaller bowls at your Super Bowl party.

The Small Plate Movement promotes using 10-inch plates instead of 12-inch plates. People eat 22 percent fewer calories from a smaller plate, without affecting their perceived fullness or satisfaction.

But the market doesn’t help reduce portion size. [Read more…]

We’re all sheep

Sheep flockThe Wall Street Journal ran an article about how to get people to adopt green behaviors. The headline said, “It isn’t financial incentives. It isn’t more information. It’s guilt.”

The article later called it peer pressure, which I think is more accurate than guilt. We don’t know which emotions are at play when people want to be like others. Often they’re not even aware of others’ influence. They may even deny others’ influence.

They just do something because other people are doing it. They’re acting like sheep.  Read more> [Read more…]

Learning from the Big Dogs

Huck Finn and his idol Ellie

Huck Finn and his idol Ellie

Huck Finn is a puppy. Half golden Labrador retriever, half Labradoodle, he’s a bundle of loose-limbed, silky-eared energy. Huck has a group of fans (I confess to being one) who adore him and his puppy-ness.

Huck Finn is a fan himself. He idolizes Ellie. Ellie is a Big Dog, a golden Lab. She’s a few years older than Huck and wise in the Ways of the Dog World. Huck tags along with Ellie and tries to copy her behavior. She seems happy to play the Big Dog role. [Read more…]

Michael Bublé and Candid Camera: How social proof works

Ed. note: In honor of my 10th anniversary in business, I am reposting some of the posts from my Sage Enviro blog to make it easier for people to find them.

I went to see Michael Bublé in concert Saturday night. He’s a crooner, like a young Frank Sinatra. He and his band were playing in Key Arena:  an intimate setting, with only 12,000 other people.

We all know the accepted behaviors at concerts. We sit in our seats, clap when each song is over, sing along when the performer invites us and file out after the concert. We are using social proof: referring to others to find out the correct behavior.

Social proof is powerful stuff. Just for fun, take a look at how Candid Camera used social proof to change “correct” behavior in an elevator. [Read more…]