Last month I attended the Behavior, Energy and Climate Change conference in Sacramento, CA. In its seventh year, the conference brings together experts and practitioners interested in understanding more about individual and organizational behavior, and how it relates to climate change, energy usage, sustainable practices, and more. As Transportation Demand Management practitioners, behavior change is what we do – and so the conference is an excellent opportunity to learn more about how decisions are made.
“But I don’t want you to change my behavior!” is what you are thinking now – and you are correct. Any change that is forced upon someone, or made to feel as if it is being forced upon you, is not going to be well-received, and certainly not followed with any persistence. But what if you were the one making the decision? If you decided to drive less, and take Metro more, chances are that you will stick to that longer than if someone told you that you must drive less. And that is exactly the type of thing that is presented at the conference – information about how people think, and how we can empower you, the individual, to make changes for the better.
Two significant takeaways from this year’s conference were about how the brain works and makes decisions. For example, 60% of the brain is dedicated to sight, and we remember images first, words second. Now think about the last PowerPoint presentation you sat through – were the slides full of images or words? Which did you remember better?
In connection with the importance of using images, it’s also been found that humans make decisions almost predominately based on emotion – 90%, in fact. So the whole idea of “Just give them the facts and let them decide!” is not effective at all in terms of decision-making. One need only look to political elections to see the truth in this – facts are pushed aside for images, and people vote based on a perceived emotional connection. So one of the biggest takeaways was, “Make people feel, not think.”
Changing behavior is not an easy task, regardless of the behavior – eating healthier, saving more money, stopping smoking, driving less, and so on. But hopefully, as we learn more about how humans make decisions, we can help you find what works best for you, so that whatever behavior you want to change, you can stick with your choice.