Nav: Home

A better way for policymakers to win over constituents

December 14, 2016

UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA, BERKELEY'S HAAS SCHOOL OF BUSINESS--Imagine you are an organ donor in need of an organ yourself. Should you get preferential treatment because you had volunteered to be a donor? A new study shows that most people would support moving you up on the waiting list. At the same time, they would vehemently oppose moving non-donors needing an organ down on the list.

Why do people accept some policies and reject others when the outcomes are the same? Getting the desired results depends on the policy's messaging and whether people's behavior is voluntary or obligatory. Study participants favored outcomes that reward positive and voluntary behavior. Likewise, people tend to favor punishing people's behavior when it runs afoul of an obligation or rule but oppose preferential treatment for those who did not break the rules.

The study, "When Do People Prefer Carrots to Sticks? A Robust 'Matching Effect' in Policy Evaluation," forthcoming in Management Science, suggests that by understanding how people evaluate policies, marketers and policymakers can better frame and improve acceptance rates. The paper is co-authored by Ellen Evers, an assistant professor at UC Berkeley's Haas School of Business, Yoel Inbar of the University of Toronto, and Irene Blanken and Linda Oosterwijk of Tilburg University, Netherlands.

"For a policy to succeed, it must not only be effective in changing behavior, it must also be accepted by stakeholders," says Evers. "Therefore it is crucial to understand how different descriptions of the exact same policy can lead to dramatically different rates of acceptance."

When a policy addresses voluntary behaviors, study participants favored outcomes that help those who participated more than outcomes that punish non-volunteers, as in the organ donor scenario. The same results occurred in 13 similar scenarios. For example, people supported a plan to move community service volunteers up on a waiting list for a desirable apartment, while moving non-volunteers down on the list was seen as completely unacceptable.

The pattern flips when the policy addresses obligations. For example, study participants preferred a policy that cut test scores by 50% for students who cheated on an exam. Those students failed to fulfill their obligation not to cheat. At the same time, the study participants were less favorable toward a policy that doubled test scores for students who had not cheated because the honest students' behavior is deemed voluntary.

Evers calls these differences in judgment a "matching effect." Policies that provide a disadvantage--such as being moved down on the organ donor list--are considered punishment. At the same time, policies that create an advantage (moving up on the organ list) are favored because they are seen as rewarding a desired voluntary behavior. By understanding this matching effect when framing a message, policymakers are more likely to increase acceptance of a policy.

Think of the Netherlands' so-called 'fat tax' proposal in 2012. Left-leaning parties wanted to increase taxes on unhealthy, fattening foods and use the proceeds to make healthy foods more affordable. Evers says the proposal failed because of its campaign message-- introduce a fat-tax and use the proceeds to make healthy food cheaper--because it was perceived as punishing citizens for eating bad foods.

"If they had framed the campaign positively such as, 'We should make healthy foods cheaper and fund this by increasing the cost of bad foods,' it is likely many more people would have seen this as an acceptable intervention," says Evers. "The same policy can get a lot of support, or be hated by most of the population, purely by the way it is described."
-end-
See Abstract: https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2613192

University of California - Berkeley Haas School of Business

Related Behavior Articles:

Is Instagram behavior motivated by a desire to belong?
Does a desire to belong and perceived social support drive a person's frequency of Instagram use?
A 3D view of climatic behavior at the third pole
Research across several areas of the 'Third Pole' -- the high-mountain region centered on the Tibetan Plateau -- shows a seasonal cycle in how near-surface temperature changes with elevation.
Witnessing uncivil behavior
When people witness poor customer service, a manager's intervention can help reduce hostility toward the company or brand, according to WSU research.
Whole-brain imaging of mice during behavior
In a study published in Neuron, Emilie Macé from Botond Roska's group and collaborators demonstrate how functional ultrasound imaging can yield high-resolution, brain-wide activity maps of mice for specific behaviors.
Swarmlike collective behavior in bicycling
Nature is full of examples of large-scale collective behavior; humans also exhibit this behavior, most notably in pelotons, the mass of riders in bicycle races.
More Behavior News and Behavior Current Events

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Rethinking Anger
Anger is universal and complex: it can be quiet, festering, justified, vengeful, and destructive. This hour, TED speakers explore the many sides of anger, why we need it, and who's allowed to feel it. Guests include psychologists Ryan Martin and Russell Kolts, writer Soraya Chemaly, former talk radio host Lisa Fritsch, and business professor Dan Moshavi.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#537 Science Journalism, Hold the Hype
Everyone's seen a piece of science getting over-exaggerated in the media. Most people would be quick to blame journalists and big media for getting in wrong. In many cases, you'd be right. But there's other sources of hype in science journalism. and one of them can be found in the humble, and little-known press release. We're talking with Chris Chambers about doing science about science journalism, and where the hype creeps in. Related links: The association between exaggeration in health related science news and academic press releases: retrospective observational study Claims of causality in health news: a randomised trial This...