Moving People to Action

Moving people from passive lurkers to active participants is often a difficult process.

Think about it: What's your favorite movie or book? Have you ever contacted the film producer or the book author and let him or her know how much you enjoyed his or her work? What about your favorite Web site? How often do you leave a comment on a company's page?

If you're like most people, you never bother to act on something you enjoy or find valuable—even when you want to or know you should.

There's some interesting psychological research that explains why we fail to do this. The research also demonstrates a persuasive approach for convincing people to act.

In 1963, a research team led by Howard Leventhal proved that the last thing you put in writing has a big impact.11 The story involves tetanus shots and Yale University students.

The students were given booklets describing and showing the consequences of tetanus disease. The goal was to convince subjects to get a free tetanus shot at the campus clinic.

Only 3 percent acted and got the shot.

Leventhal's team decided to run a parallel study, in this case simply adding the following to the end of the materials:

  • A map of the school with a circle around the health care facility
  • A written description of the location
  • The hours when the free shots were administered

The result: a 900 percent improvement! A remarkable 28 percent of students got the tetanus shots, up from only 3 percent.

Why did so many more students act ...

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