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Behavior Change Communication

The Things We Do: Do Good Things Come to Those Who Wait?

Roxanne Bauer's picture

It’s an iconic test of willpower: sit a child down in front of a marshmallow, tell the child that he/she can either have the marshmallow in front of them now or they can have two— if they wait. Then leave the room and watch what the child does.

Some children will sit patiently for the adult to return so they can have their reward.  Others will try to wait but will ultimately succumb to eating the delicious treat. What is the difference between the two sets of children?

In the early 1960s, Walter Mischel conducted a series of these tests, popularly known as the “Marshmallow Tests”, at the Bing Nursery School of Stanford University to study temptation and self-control. There were other variations of the test, in which children were offered pretzel sticks, mints, or colored poker chips. The tests were also replicated in different settings, including South Bronx, where children experience high amounts of stress and poverty and in a residential treatment program for young people at high risk for aggression/externalization and depression/withdrawal. Joachim de Posada, co-author of the book, Don’t Eat the Marshmallow… Yet!, also tried the test in Colombia. The results were consistent. Some children could wait, others could not.

The Things We Do: How (not What) Movies Inspire Us

Roxanne Bauer's picture

At the basis of communication and public policy are assumptions about human beings- their rationality or irrationality, their foibles, wants and preferences. A lot depends on whether these assumptions are correct. In this feature, we bring you fascinating examples of human behavior from across the globe.

A recent article in The New York Times, “Divining Why One Film Spurs Activism, While Others Falter” highlights the work of Participant Media, an entertainment company that produces film, television, publishing and digital content that inspires social change. According to Participant Media’s website, the company “launches campaigns that bring together government entities, foundations, schools, and others to raise awareness and drive people to take action on issues from each film or television show.” 

But all of this begs the question: are these films successful in doing what they set out to do? Do people learn from the films and change their ways?  What pushes us beyond social media activism to stand up and do something about our outrage?

Sanitation For All: Ignore Quality at Your Own Peril

Suvojit Chattopadhyay's picture

The excellently named Research Institute for Compassionate Economics (R.I.C.E) recently published an equally excellently named survey – the SQUAT (Sanitation Quality, Use, Access and Trends) survey. Based on the findings of this survey conducted in five north Indian states, R.I.C.E calls for a latrine use revolution - since the bottleneck is not the non-availability of a latrine (since even those with a government latrine are not using them), nor is it lack of funds (since far poorer countries and communities have built and used latrine). It is an issue of messaging around hygiene, towards which we need to set our firm focus.

My first job in the development sector was with an NGO, Gram Vikas in Odisha and my experience there has shaped many of my core beliefs about working in this sector. At the core of Gram Vikas' work was the conviction that the 'poor can and will pay for quality services'. So when I think toilets (not latrines – and there is a key difference in the definition), I often use the 'quality' lens and make the argument about how the usage of physical facilities installed by projects has a direct link with what community perception of what counts as good quality. This also has a strong link with the extent to which they feel a sense of ownership for the facility.

The Things We Do: Bandwidth Poverty- When our Minds Betray Us

Roxanne Bauer's picture

Struggling to ‘get by’ is stressful.  We worry whether we can make it to our next paycheck, whether a trip to the market will be successful, whether we can pay the rent on-time… the list goes on.

All of this stress leads to an attention shortage, known as bandwidth poverty.  Bandwidth poverty creates a negative, reinforcing cycle.  When we experience financial poverty, we focus on the immediate need to make money or to pay a bill, and we don’t have sufficient cognitive resources or bandwidth to spend on other tasks or later deadlines. This leads to less-than-optimal decisions that leave us worse-off because we’ve lost the capacity or mental space to consider future needs.

In a series of experiments, researchers from Harvard, Princeton and Britain's University of Warwick found that urgent financial worries had an immediate impact on poor people's ability to perform well in tests of cognition and logic.

The researchers conducted two sets of experiments— in two very different settings— one in a mall in suburban New Jersey and one involving sugar cane farmers in rural India.
 

The People Who Can Connect the Dots – Graduates of 2013 Summer Institute

Shamiela Mir's picture

The Third Summer Institute in Communication and Governance Reform came to a close on June 7, 2013. The participants completed a very intense yet extremely enriching two weeks of learning from world-class researchers and thinkers in strategic communication in a close-knit setting.

As mentioned in my previous blog, the program was developed with an understanding that successful implementation of policy reforms requires behavior change which can only be induced when non-technical, real life issues that relate to people and politics are treated as priority along with technical issues.  Human behavior is at the core of why things happen the way they do, whether we are talking about why some people smoke, or why some politicians implement policies that are detrimental to their country.

The Earth is Dying, So What?

Darshana Patel's picture

Public awareness campaigns about climate change can be real downers. This one was too scary for children and was eventually pulled off the air. This one scared even the adults and was pulled off the air within hours of its release.

Doom and gloom scenarios seem to be the dominant theme in most of these campaigns. But are they working? According to Futerra’s Sell the Sizzle, these campaigns completely miss the target with this type of negative messaging.  While it is true that climate change is aggravating problems like mass migration, overcrowded cities, and food shortages, our message need not be about Armageddon. We are trying to sell a version of climate change hell when we should be selling a low-carbon heaven, argues Futerra

Let Me Entertain You

Anne-Katrin Arnold's picture

When we talk about how mass communication can be used to foster development effectiveness, what kind of communication are we talking about? Well, I would say that we often talk about information-centered mass communication – be it in political media or through other channels. Communication centered on facts and bits of information is certainly a wide-spread approach in development, but let’s think about communication that does not so much focus on facts, but on emotions and context.