June 24, 2024

How do you “push” people without them noticing

Whether it’s a friendly reminder to file your tax return or a drawn fly in the urinal: behavioral research provides companies and countries with a toolkit for influencing human behaviour. However, care must be taken when using it. Because unwanted side effects are possible.

If you do not pay your taxes in the UK on time, you will receive a letter from the UK Tax Office. For several years now, this has been not just a reminder of the passed deadline, but an individual message. It reminds taxpayers, for example, that most people in their area have already paid their taxes. Authority refers to a social norm. The result is that tax collection has improved significantly since then.

These letters are called “behavioral letters” in technical terms because they are based on findings from behavioral economics and psychology. The messages are the so-called alerts, translated: alerts. People are “pushed” in the direction of behavior and at best don’t even notice it. Other examples of “alerts” are shock images on cigarette packets or standard settings in online retail, for example regarding shipping method or product colour. A fly painted in the urinal is also an alert, as it has been proven that men often urinate next to it.

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