A Logical Approach to Illogical People

We used to think people were logical.

We used to believe people were logical.

We used to think that all we had to do was educate people about why they should do the right thing and they would do it. 

We said “recycle because it saves energy.”

We said “take the bus because it reduces air pollution.”

We said “don’t drink and drive because you could kill someone.”

We said “don’t smoke because you could kill yourself.”

We believed that with knowledge, the action was sure to follow. 

We sat back and waited for the action to happen. Because we believed people are logical.

But it often didn’t happen because people aren’t logical.

Then, way back in the early 1990s, Doug McKenzie-Mohr introduced us to Community-Based Social Marketing in his book Fostering Sustainable Behaviour. (https://www NULL.amazon NULL.ca/Fostering-Sustainable-Behavior-Introduction-Community-Based/dp/0865716420/ref=sr_1_1?crid=TDSJFEJ6UXM&keywords=fostering+sustainable+behaviour&qid=1643390818&sprefix=fostering%2Caps%2C80&sr=8-1) Doug taught us that the most effective way to change behaviour is to nurture that behaviour directly, by applying behavioural psychology. 

We learned that even with the best intentions, people often fail to act. Psychologists call it the Intention-Action Gap. Community-Based Social Marketing provided a system to help bridge the gap.

So we changed course and embraced behavioural psychology to get people take action.

Now, we still educate. We educate because it is important that people understand why they should take action. Imagine trying to get people to donate blood if they didn’t know the benefits. But now we also do a lot more beyond education.

We design systems that are more convenient to use.

We identify and remove barriers that prevent people from taking action. We find out what motivates some people to take action and we promote those benefits to others.

We also seek commitments to action and provide helpful reminders of those commitments. And we nurture and leverage peer pressure.

And now the actions happen. Not all right away, but they happen, over time.

We have learned two things about creating Behaviour Change.

  1. People aren’t logical.
  2. We need to use the right tools.
  3. The right tools are rooted in behavioural psychology.