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The Psychology of Signs
Signs often have an effect opposite to that intended. The problem is that to persuade people not to do something, you first have to raise the issue, increasing its salience in their minds.
What's the Latest Development?
In general, it seems, we're pathetically obedient to signs, lining up where we're told to, walking where we're told to walk, just because it's printed on a sign. Studies suggest 'invoking norms' is a very effective tactic: to get people to reuse hotel towels, tell them lots of other guests do so. And specificity matters: asking hikers to keep to the footpath to preserve particular trees is better than asking them to protect the forest, which, in turn, is better than 'save the planet. Most intriguing, though, are those studies that demonstrate how often signs have the opposite effect from that intended.
What's the Big Idea?
A problem with controlling people's behaviour that goes far beyond signage is that to persuade people not to do something, you first have to raise the issue, thereby increasing its salience in their minds. The same hazard blights personal efforts at habit change: go on a diet, and suddenly you're thinking about food all the time. (That's why the best way to eliminate bad habits is to replace them with specific new habits.) Sometimes the best solution to a problem is to forget you had one. Whereas a notice just reminds you to notice.
Certain water beetles can escape from frogs after being consumed.
- A Japanese scientist shows that some beetles can wiggle out of frog's butts after being eaten whole.
- The research suggests the beetle can get out in as little as 7 minutes.
- Most of the beetles swallowed in the experiment survived with no complications after being excreted.
The world's 10 most affected countries are spending up to 59% of their GDP on the effects of violence.
- Conflict and violence cost the world more than $14 trillion a year.
- That's the equivalent of $5 a day for every person on the planet.
- Research shows that peace brings prosperity, lower inflation and more jobs.
- Just a 2% reduction in conflict would free up as much money as the global aid budget.
- Report urges governments to improve peacefulness, especially amid COVID-19.
The lush biodiversity of South America's rainforests is rooted in one of the most cataclysmic events that ever struck Earth.
- One especially mysterious thing about the asteroid impact, which killed the dinosaurs, is how it transformed Earth's tropical rainforests.
- A recent study analyzed ancient fossils collected in modern-day Colombia to determine how tropical rainforests changed after the bolide impact.
- The results highlight how nature is able to recover from cataclysmic events, though it may take millions of years.