Monday, January 30, 2012

Signs to Modify Behavior

Susan D. Clayton writes that "Identities affect our responses to issues: topics that are seen as self-relevant attract more attention and arouse more emotion. We also respond differently when we share an identity with those who are affected, rather than defining them as outsiders" (from "Conservation Psychology: Using Psychological Tools to Address Environmental Challenges").

For my first post, I chose two signs found on the Pratt campus and dorms that try to change the behavior of the student, one by plea, another by bribe (of sorts).

To the left are signs found by the elevators on my floor. The messages, too similar to separate, are simple and direct. No flowery language, no cool graphics to distract, just "You Need Sleep/Food." Many students can relate to need for these things throughout the school year, forgoing both in order to have more time to work on projects and papers. But the websites featured at the bottom offer students helpful ways in which to better eat and rest so that their work will be better as well.

To the right is a sign found by the cafeteria on campus. Thought the volunteer programs offered may be worthwhile, Community Board offers pizza and coffee as incentives to come the meetings. Many organizations or clubs use food or beverages, even small gifts, to garner attendance.* And while some students who do go for the freebies actually become interested in the cause or activity, most just go, listen, and walk away with their coffee. This doesn't exactly change their attitudes about community service.

Although Clayton's observation that people will join in a cause or change their behavior in order to 'fit in' with their peers is a good motivator, I've found that, with these signs at least, people may think about themselves first and what benefits them. The 'You Need Sleep/Food' signs speak to the exhausted student who will try anything to get more rest, while the Community Board sign speaks to the broke student who will do anything for a free coffee. Only the first has the potential to change whereas the other is consistent in his/her behavior.

*Note: I am not debasing Community Board's efforts to get more people involved. I am simply pointing out that most students are only interested in the free coffee, but there are those who are genuinely interested in reaching out and serving the community.

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