« Freakonomics Radio

80. Riding the Herd Mentality

2012-06-20 | 🔗
How using peer pressure -- and good, old-fashioned shame -- can push people to do the right thing.
This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
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Ryan Dumplings. Now in the freezer I'll, this is the sound of traffic in Bogota the capital, Colombia, pretty chaotic horse cards right beside Bmw's Lakes and
Austrians and buses all competing for the same patch of payment, but as bad as traffic is now used to be worse is crossing the street. It was an act of falling, maybe that's Margarita, Martinez, she's, a journalist and filmmaker, because you wouldn't have an assurance that it will spread. No one was gonna, let you lost, but maybe they fell like take. Just could keep driving leader of the traffic lights didn't mean. Anything was just like our suggestion, not really something that would be
back. Then they they didn't even exist rules so that we can say with the jungle demurely nineteen minus Bogota was one of the most dangerous citys around its homicide rate was triple that of New York's and traffic fatalities were also very common, with a rate more than four times of New York's, but in ninety. Ninety four Bogota voted in a new mare, a most unusual mare, his name, was Antennas Marcus. How unusual was he well Moses had previously served as president of Bogota National University, but he resigned after an incident in which he moon a group of unruly students still in a city as a chaotic as Bogota
maybe he was just the kind of mare they needed felt free to to be a little bit outside of the normal. We have that smokers. He wound up serving to terms is mare from ninety. Ninety five to ninety ninety, seven and again from two thousand one to two thousand three. He did all kinds of things that weren't quite normal behaviour. He gave tens of thousands of citizens a placebo vaccine against violence. He preached the evils of graffiti by dressing up as a character. He called Super citizen in spandex suit, He encourage people to take out their aggression on balloons rather than one another, and he also had an idea for that. Terrible traffic to traffic police was very good
and we use mines as a local replacement in a small part of the city of the traffic police, wait, wait a minute. I saw him an excuse me more milk. As you said, you replaced the traffic police with mimes, yes, it may be worth. pointing out here how mocha spells his name? It's m o c K. U S as in mock us, here's Margarita Martinez! Again! She has drafted a film about markets, for example, you were crossing the street, not through the crosswalk but through you know the middle of the street, a thin. The mine followed you this really funny and playful wave, and they may make the way you want
How you give your hair, whatever you felt that you were the worst citizen in the world and after that, though, is the lesson that you Lord in your heart, you know not in your pocket the you ashamed, shame profoundly shamed because of this mines and everybody in front of you. It wasn't just the mind, Marcus is government handed out thousands of cards to drivers on one side the card had a cartoon, drawing the thumbs up and, on the other side, a thumbs down a red thumbs, down kind of like the Red card that a soccer referee uses to reject a player from again you it's just a very polite way to change people's behaviour and to take out the Agora than you hang when someone to something terrible, but also the other person fell like or I'm being seen.
People don't agree with what I'm doing, and it was also shameful. Yes will shaming is a way of integrating. He was a very polite way of insulting you. It seems ridiculous probably, but do you really work. I'm happy from W. Why, in an ATM american public media, this is Reaganomics radio, podcast that explores the hidden side and everything. Here's your house statement,
So the mayor of Bogota and Thomas Moses had some serious problems to solve and thought it shame might help from the beginning of his first term. Until the end of his second term, life got much better in Bogota the homicide rate fell dramatically. Now, it's probably a lot more to do with new gun laws and alcohol laws than with mines. But observers generally agree that Marcus's, shaming technique sent a valuable message. The rules of this city have changed and if you need help upholding these new rules, well, we're gonna make your fellow citizens help. You traffic fatalities also fell over the eight years, the rapid Marcus's rain by roughly sixty percent now, even though most of us don't have mimes to help shape our behavior
we do all follow cues. That suggest what is acceptable behaviour and what's not an academic circles, they are known as social norms. There. The way we try to avoid being the nail that sticking out if were uncertain about what we should do in this situation. One short cut way of knowing what probably the right thing for us to do here is to look at what our peers into doing. That's Robert shall Dini he's an emeritus professor of psychology and marketing at Arizona State University Birds flock together in very neat patterns, fish, school cattle heard social insects swarm together. So this is something that doesn't require a lot of cognitive capacity in order to trigger the conformity Audrey
to do is to see what those around you like. You are doing, and it's a good short cut to deciding what you should do. In a situation years back chaldees wrote a book that became a classic and business circles. It's called influence. His research career has been dedicated to the power of social norms. For instance, in one experiment shall Dini wanted to know what would influence people to reduce their home energy consumption. So he and his researchers went around neighborhoods in San Diego hanging signs on people's doors. They used for different versions of the sign, so they could measure the effectiveness between young, The message said: please reduce energy in your home in order reduce the eggs In future of resources on the planned, another said please,
reduce energy consumption in the home in order to save money at the end of the month. On your own bill, a third said He's do this for future generations, so that your children will have access to these resources, Didn't we had yet another that we ve never seen employed in it said simply, The majority of your neighbors are usually undertaking efforts to reduce energy in their homes. Please follow that's it, it doesn't say The majority of your neighbors are doing better than you are worse than you just says: they're they're, doing stuff right and we're gonna put this ball in your court now, and you should do stuff right, ok and then we measured their energy use. At the end of the month, we were surely one going into their yards risking
issues, dogs, sprinkling systems and we looked at their energy. as a result of receiving one or another. Those messages to interesting, finding wait before you before even give it, because, if people listening to this, whether Ura, policymaker parent or as a teacher like you're, about to tell them kind of the secret of the universe, aren't you like everybody, wants to encourage what you call pro social behaviour, get people to do things that are collectively better for all of us, but you're telling me that through this one experiment at least you can in no How all of us can be doing this thing right? Will you write to use the caviar through this one experiment, alleys, there one the secret to the universe that we seem to under recognise and it is Those around us are doing powerfully influences what we choose to do next, even though we tended
Think of ourselves is free standing entities in me to the blandishments of information and ever from those around us. No, we are powerfully influence and in this case it was the only message that significantly reduced in she consumption in the home it's the only one that had any effect was That said, people around you are doing this already didn't even say that they're doing better than you are worth exact wrangling so What the heck does that mean other than I mean my my lay persons knee jerk reaction is doctor children.
you're telling me that oh, we basically are heard animals as much as we like to think that we're not. We are at a very elemental level. Of course we are because this is an adaptive approach to our environment. So when I hear you say that I say well that well, yes, that makes good sense on a scientific level and on a kind of emotional level as well, but I am I'm guessing most people to this would say this is well I'm not like that. I dont travel with the herd like that. I think for myself. So what I really would ask you now is well what kinds of people first while most of us are probably wrong. We think we, we all think we're above average, certainly and I'm probably wrong and probably much more her like that. I think, but I guess the next thing. I want to know how that is what kind of people are least susceptible
to that kind of heard. Thinking I'm guessing from your San, Diego Energy experiment. We don't know that cause. You don't know too much about the demographics of each of these individuals. Am I right that's right, but let me say that from that study we also interviewed people in those neighbourhoods and asked them of these four points messages do this for the environment, do this to save money? Do this for me, your generations or do this, because your neighbors are doing it. We which of these would be most powerful in spurring. You into energy conservation, the one that was by far the least raided as aim motivator of their change- was the one that was indeed the one that did lever their change, the greatest the one that said judge your neighbors are doing this. They waved their hands when we asked them. Networks now come on. I don't care what my neighbours are doing. That's not me
people wanted to see themselves as is independent as orthogonal to those around them, and so they just weren't going to believe it, and this leads to a real problem, which is because people don't believe that these kinds of pools and draws in and motives affect them powerfully. Winds. get in to positions of developing programmes to create pro social behaviour. They dont think of this. Where does when they enter?
spect they see all this wouldn't work on me. Why would I loaded into my the wording of other of a message designed to move people in pro social directions, but it doesn't always working. Does it appear? Information does not always work. Give me an example of where telling people what other people are doing actually might have a boomerang effect. We recognise that very often public service messages are
designed to move people in our society less desirable directions by telling them how many people are behaving in undesirable directions that so many people are drinking in driving. We have to stop this teenage pregnancy is so prevalent in our schools. We have to do something about this. Tax fraud is so rampant that we have to increase the penalties for let any actual instinct right to without the evidence to beat people on their that right right, it's a very human but wrong, headed strategy, because the the sub text message is a lot of people just like you are doing this, and therefore I too so it is it normalizes. It legitimizes the
desirable behaviour would actually done a study in this regard. I live in Arizona there's something here called the Petrified Forest national park. Their problem is people steel, pieces of petrified wood from the forest floor and crystals very frequently and the problem is widespread enough, that it is undermining the integrity of the forest, and so there the sign, as you enter the park that says because so many people are stealing wood from the forest floor at the rate of nearly a ton a month it is undermining the integrity of the forest. I had again student who is working with me and he and his fiance went to the forest and they saw it sign, and he said before he was finished reading it. He heard his fiancee who
What counts is the single most honest person. I've ever met in his life, say to him we'd, better. Yet hours after what could possibly do that? Take this otherwise wholly honest young, woman and Turner into an environmental criminal who is depleting a national treasure in the process, but also your thinking. Well, if they're taking a tonic month, I'm only gonna take a few ounces. That's nothing can be do a ton, and we put that sign in front of certain pathways that ran through the forest and we salted of that those pathways with pieces of petrified would in that. We look to see what the effect of that sign was on steel
the wood that we had marked compared to a control, condition that didn't get any son. It nearly tripled theft coming up. We ve talked about using shame and we ve talked about the intensity of heard behaviour. So how about using shit to change. The direction of the herd House called the water Nazi, which had been called worse I'll, take barter nazi. We had to a development called grassland estates in West Texas to see what happens when there's not enough water to keep the grassland green reading.
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must be eighteen or older. Please play responsibly benefits older pennsylvanians every day, from W and Y, see an ATM american public media. This is for economic, radio. Here's your host Stephen Governor last year, parts of West Texas, experienced some of the worst drought conditions in modern history. The drought caused all kinds of problems: large and small. We sent reporter Chrissy Clerk to Midland Texas to look into one problem that might have seemed small, but now it wasn't. I started in a neighborhood called grassland estates.
at the home of the Joneses Mister Jones, MIKE he's in the oil business and then there's the MRS Barbie Jones and AM housewife, and you are also the president of the empress. Homer Association, hearing Grassland Milon as president of the Homeowners Association, Barbie Jones Kind of sets. The pace for the neighbourhood people actually try keep up with the Joneses, and when you walk into her house, you discover its quite a pace. The rooms are spotless beautifully decorated. And the whole place smells like fresh, baked cookies peanut pad. modulation, balls in Canada can cookie you mustn't neighbours. Muffin tens are just the beginning of what is done for the neighbours around here.
In West, Texas, Barbie, Joan, says neighbours are serious business be neighbour like that's. My big thing is the President out here: it's just be neighbourly neighbours are nice, they beg cookies for each other. They do each other favours, but the other thing about neighbours. Were pre competitive and the vehicle sweetheart the close fish aware this where's that we shop in and especially that dad a symbol of all status symbols according to you much anybody. You ask where manicured lawn, lush, beautiful lords lush green lots, green lush spaces in grassland estates as the name might suggest. Lawns are a very big deal, but not just there. It turns out that the lawn obsession in West Texas has deep roots the people
they came here, wanted to make it look homey, that's Steve Thorpe. He works for the city of Midland. He oversees the code Enforcement department. Originally Thorpe is from Michigan and in fact a lot of people around here are originally from somewhere else from other parts of Texas or other parts of the country. Most came here for one thing: the oil underneath Midland and the booming economy, its field for a very long time, but when people get here, the place is always kind of a ship will they flat? We have miles a mosquito and Buffalo glass and only the stuff that comes
the oil industry on company in the sand and walls being drolling, we'll have a pretty stuff on the ground. In fact, it so on Pretty Thorpe says that when he agreed to take a job here to move himself and his wife out from Michigan the guy who hired him, gave him some advice, he said firing at night rigour during the day when I wanted to see what display such like an Steve, says. Generations of husbands and wives have been dealing with the same thing with the husband came here on the issue of war to, and and took a job in the oil industry and decided to bring his wife and family from these coast. They wanted to make you feel home and consequently, that's how we ve got to very lush green yard so that appropriate leave adapted to West taxes, but we're trying to create greenery in the high desert, and that has recently posed teeny tiny little
of a problem. As the mayor of Midland, I would like to take a moment, inform you about the drought contingency plan, so that's the mayor of Midland Wes, Perry speaking in the summer of twenty eleven. It was making an announcement that ended up turning Midland and its neighbours on their heads, but before we get to what he said You need to understand why he said it. You may remain that in two thousand eleven Texas was suffering from one of the worst droughts on record. The landscape was so parched cattle were starving, squirrels and skunks were starving. Wildfires were everywhere and they would burn so hot once they consume to the vegetation. The dirt would go up in flames. I met it. Actual hosted a local radio station Robert Hallmark, and he told me you are just in a dust bowl. I mean it
It looks like a scene of a star wars all the time out here, and then there were the lakes. They were so dry, and so now they are finding things in these lakes old cars. They their Venice cemetery, not defend a piece of the space shuttle that blew up overtakes, two of the three reservoirs that Midland relied on for water have already dried up, and the last one is predicted to be dry by next winter. If things don't get better the cities been looking into many things: desalination plants using treated wastewater for drinking water, they restricted the amount of water, public parks, canoes and schools, but the one thing that caused the most trouble was this decision that the mayor of Middle and announced in the summer of twenty eight. Businesses and residents who consume city water may only water outdoors two times per week. This, of course, monitor restrictions, really meant one thing, no more the lash, where manicured lawns lush green line,
green lush spaces and that's when life, in the neighborhood started to change. Kristen ways you might expect. There was a lot of grumbling about the new water rules. sarcastic Joe NEWS dogged by pretty crazy, aren't you can still turn it on every day, Robert Hallmark through Your hosts as people started looking for creative loopholes to get around the restrictions. It was a favorite topic on his show. We jokingly had a good time about these slipping slide rule. I was say? Weapons lied, sales have gonna wind, we dislike, rule was that you could operate a slip in line your front yard for the kids anytime. You wanted to know, you know as well as I do slip and slide is nothing but just in our hold the holes in it. That is just pouring water out. In the end, that alone, now the rule
though, that kid's had to be sitting there playing on the slip inside, so we determined how much it would cost to hire kids to stand in your yard and bathing suit, and just to look at what are your yard? There's some outline these things people will do to try to get around the room like this thinking, like five o clock one morning, that's Carlos Cortez and were driving is gone down. The block Cortez works for guess at the sitting, next to Midland, which around the same time, also put in rules about how often you could water your lawn during the drought to enforce the rules? The city formed a water patrol team that Cortez was on and it was his job to go out on night sweeps to make sure people were following the rules there. First night out, they were headed down a cul de sac when they spotted a shadowy figure. Hold a hose and you get. Zambia was hiding behind the two houses watery. We made a. U turn came back around to see a funeral, so we can talk to him
and next to you know when we made the? U turn came back around, we looked at each other like I mean he wasn't there. He was just gone. You know, It is like one he saw. The truck apparently does drop. This has waterfalls and somehow even around the through the back eight, and that was it so you he was hiding. He was hiding from you guys not only hiding from Mars, because he was unaware that we're running round through there. I think he was hurrying away from the other neighbours. Why would he be hiding from the other neighbours here is The plot dickens, because once it became clear that rules alone weren't gonna, stop the citizens of West Texas from watering their lawns everyday local leaders in MID, Linda Odessa, combined the rules with something else, shame it started innocently enough and Midland the city printed out, yellow flyers, bright, yellow and circle
them, people were encouraged to put them on the doors of neighbours who were breaking the watering rules in big letters. The flier said hello neighbour and then have a little box, as you could check, showing exactly what the neighbor was doing wrong. They cut, pretty quickly. You could tell those that were watering, that's Barbie Jones again, president of the Grassland Homeowners Association and Midland their yard, still it very nice to nice. Really, you see Jones who had once been a champion of the well. Why Lush green lawn had become one of the early adopters of this new drought, conscious trend, and if someone was an on board with that, she knew it. If you see someone not watering, and accordingly there s nothing neighbourly,
Oh it's better! To go to the immense. I hate you you're, not following the rules. There wasn't just the yellow hello neighbour flyers that encourage this approach. Around the same time, the fires came out. The mayor of Midland came on that radio talk show to announce a new water violation hotline the city had set up Robert Hallmark, the radio host interviewed the mayor about it. We had him in the studio and in really he was suggesting that hey you know. If your neighbour is not watering on the right day, then call the city and we'll go out and talk to him, and I say so you're asking people to turn on each other and he didn't see it quite their waste is no it's just a friendly reminder that we all are here together. I asked the mayor Wes Perry about this and he admits he was wrong about the hotline. I'd call it a penalty alone. It was crazy. The mayor heard from some people who actually came to blows fist fights over the rules domains ahead, fielding Mccoy is going on. Is it was wild?
Thank you for calling the city about ass, the water Hotline, Odessa, Midlands, neighbouring city had a total tail line to have a complaint. You have acted file. Please leave he addressed date time, an issue after the town. The voice behind our message is Andrea. Godson, though now she's been given, another name house called the waters, The water nazi, which I've been called worse all take border nazi for awhile godson, was getting all the water hotline calls funneled to her phone number. We were probably averaging easily, a thousand or so a day. No problem, that's a lot of phone calls yet and people would be calling three cock a morning. My neighbors watering click. Ok, she showed me a log where they kept notes from the messages flip to a random day. Last fall and start
breathing down the page water running down the street waters. All the time watering during the mornings on Tuesday morning, with a hose sprinkler, had broken water going down the street Andrea's coworker Darlene over the log and summarised water water, water want to water. So? This is starting to sound familiar right like the story. Heard earlier in the show about people, stealing wood and crystals from the petrified forest, what it all comes down to is that people compare their own behaviour to those around them. The mayor of Midland West Perry tells a story about how, a few years ago as the drought was starting, the city created a map to get a better picture of how much water different people were using in the city. The map went house by house the highest Water users were colored bright, green, the lowest water users were colored, dark brown. First thing: you do you go and look you'd scanned the map until
found your house and then, depending on what your neighbor was do and if you were out of seek, you would immediately say something like we are going to change my habit. So say you lived in the neighborhood where people didn't use a lot of water and must have the lights were colored brown. If you were to green, you would change direction say I need to use less exactly, but the other side would happen to say you lived in India, her head where people used a lot of water and most of the lights were green. If you were one of the only brown ones you had some of those, it said. Oh, I guess I need to start using more water because their buddy you around me is Perry says it was like a contagion, the amount of water. and thought he should use seem to have less to do with his personality or how environmentally conscious he was. Instead, it had to do with how much the people around him were you
at the end of the day. We want to know that were with the group were part of we're not completely alone. Let it go man, He work. One morning when I was in Midland, I went out on a water patrol with two of the city workers, Rick, Adriano and Ponce Garza. Some people call them the water Swat team, good good, DUMBO Ellie. even with snow on the ground. People are still water. What sense does that make it? Almost never snows and Midland, but there had been a freak snow storm the day before we went out, which sadly didn't do much help the overall drought situation, but Garcon Marianna had a hunch that, even on a below freezing day with a couple inches of snow on the ground, some people would still be watering
we drive around some neighbourhoods and stopped at some of the places you could tell had been watering guys I got out to show me we were. We were with regular goods will already be eaten away at the slow you kind of like a forensic little bit in an hour. They rode up seven warnings of water in violations. Then we got to a part of town. that looked familiar grasped. This is grassland. Missus Ware Barbie lives, industry. I wanted to check up on the president of the Grassland homeowners Association, Barbie Jones. I wanted to check up on the Joneses. I want to drive by her, nor do I fumbled around for the address and we found the place. How does it look? I've straw, drawing Ubuntu, that's marketplace
Porter, Chrissy Clerk in Midland Texas, so social norms, a tricky, turned to tell what kind of shaming and peer pressure will work and what my backfire. I called up. Steve Levitt, my free economics friend and co author he's an economist at the university Chicago from an economic perspective. Shame is a wonderful punishment because, unlike imprisonment, it's free, it's! It's not only free that society can impose is much the same as the one I'm people without any kind of cost or resources used up, but effect the rest of society actually likes it when other people
she loved to read in the Knesset wire the New York Times about the shame that comes down on public people. So it's actually a really incredibly efficient mechanism for punishing people who do things we dont, like the only thing it's hard about it. Only wrote shortcoming associated with shame is a someone's gotta, be willing to be shaped so, for instance, after after we publish freak economics, some My colleagues were not that wild about the book and attend to it received and so to try to show me one of my colleagues put up anonymously on the bulletin board for the Department of Economics. A supposed quote from me: That said they claim that I had said that mathematics was not required to understand reality and this was both to be the most shameful and bears end quote, and the idea was if it was not publicly that I had said this.
That would ruin. My reputation would feel awful by myself, but in fact it had just the opposite effect, because I dont think mathematics is asserted, understand reality, and indeed I took tremendous satisfaction from the idea that that that I stood upon. from the profession in believing the thing which I think is obviously true, and so, while the intention of the act was to show me, I've still got that sign up my office and I give utility out of every single day when I walk in, and I fear Reaganomics radio was produced by W and Y see ATM american public media and debonair productions. Our staff include Susie Lichtenberg Catherine Wells. Herman, very Lamb and Chris Bannon calling Handle is our executive producer. If you
more frequent. Comics radio subscribed to our free podcast on Itunes and go to free economic sat com. Lots of radio applaud the books and more thanks as always for downloading this for economics, radio podcast. Until the next time we ll leave you with the sound of a mine directing traffic in Bogota, enjoy.
Transcript generated on 2021-03-16.