Changing Minds

Five cards, each bearing one of the following messages were randomly assigned to over 200 hotel rooms – and the number of towels counted up afterwards.

‘Help the hotel save energy’

‘Help save the environment’

‘Partner with us to help save the environment’

‘Help save resources for future generations’

‘Join your fellow guests in helping to save the environment. In a study conducted in fall 2003, 75 per cent of guests participated in our resource savings program by using their towel more than once.’

Which of the messages do you think was the most effective? Which of them would you be most likely to comply with?

If you think it is the last one – ‘Join your fellow guests in helping to save the environment’ – then you are not alone. Of the guests who saw this card in their room, 44 per cent reused their towels. The least effective – surprise, surprise – was the one that emphasized the benefit to the hotel: less than 16 per cent of guests reusing their towels in this case. And in a follow up study in which the successful message was nuanced even further to read like this, ‘Join your fellow guests in helping to save the environment. In a study conducted in 2003, 75 per cent of the guests who stayed in this room participated in our new resource savings program by using their towels more than once.’ compliance shot up even higher, to 49 per cent.

‘If you are in a situation and not sure how to act,’ comments Noah Goldstein, one of the researchers involve in the study, ‘you are going to look to other people and the norms of that situation.’

Kevin Dutton
from Split-second Persuasion
The Ancient Art and New Science of Changing Minds

Split-second Persuasion

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