Let’s start with some theory. Humans are social beings with instincts and social traits developed through social proof and peer pressure. Social proof happens when we treat our social environment as a source of information and integrate it into our behaviours, thinking and beliefs, and peer pressure when we conform to the standard norms as a tool to be accepted within a group.
Our friend Alba is 15 years old. We are trying to send her a message. Before anything, we should acknowledge that she is under the two stimuli mentioned, social proof and peer pressure.
Alba is receiving information from her parents and taking it as the truth without questioning. The parents, acting as social proof, tell Alba to be careful with the wolves when she is out in the woods as they will eat her.
Then, when Alba goes to school, she is pressured by her classmates to throw a stone at a beehive. Alba does not want to throw a stone at the beehive but wants acceptance from her classmates.
Even if Alba has a different opinion, behaviour and belief, social proof and peer pressure are strong determinants. Without realising, she will now be afraid of wolves and will end up throwing stones at beehives.
In both scenarios, behaviour change takes place. In this case, for the bad. But understanding this can help professionals flip the coin and promote positive behaviour change.
Once you understand how these patterns are present in your audience, you can now use the identification form. This one is a bit more tricky to perceive.
The identification form looks at how humans, like Alba, will change their behaviour and beliefs to match those with whom she identifies, not out of pressure, not out of social proof, but as an act of self-expression and group membership.
Alba realises that she does not feel scared of the wolves and does not want to throw stones at beehives. Alba cares for the wildlife that lives in the woods around her community.
One day she finds out that a nearby school students care about wildlife. The students that care about wildlife wear a green ribbon. Soon Alba will be likely to wear a green ribbon too. This time Alba is not pressured. By wearing the ribbon, Alba expresses her ideologies and makes a social statement.
Integrating the concept of identity is crucial to socialise change, and equally important, choosing the messenger of your communication campaign. We are likely to welcome information coming from someone with whom we identify, share cultural views, traditions and narratives.
Furthermore, when using communication to socialise change, it is crucial to promote desirable behaviours. As apparent as it seems, sometimes we lose track of our objectives or tend to reiterate undesired behaviours.
Easy techniques to socialise change include using messages like – 9 out of 10 people are no longer afraid of wolves. You can also take into consideration reciprocity. When given a gift or a benefit, we tend to return gifts and feel guilty when we don’t.
Remember that human beings are social animals. We were social before we were human – says Peter Singer. Using the right techniques to socialise behaviour change will make the difference between coexistence and conflict.
**Note this is the fourth article of a series to be published around Behaviour Change. Stay tuned for the upcoming articles!