Behaviour Change

PROPAGANDA FOR CHANGE is a project created by the students of Behaviour Change (ps359) and Professor Thomas Hills @thomhills at the Psychology Department of the University of Warwick. This work was supported by funding from Warwick's Institute for Advanced Teaching and Learning.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Dead Drops USB Ports

Refer to article:

Dead Drops is an innovative peer-to-peer file-sharing network, promoted in public spaces. There are around 1.5k dead drops worldwide (Guardian) where participants anonymously add, receive and share information through a USB medium. The USB sticks out of a wall and therefore adds a mystery element to the program, encouraging consumers to think of Dead Drops as a way to imitate secret agents and share confidential information. This form of persuasion relies on social relationship, falling under cooptation and/or the manded altercast.

Cooptation describes the process of absorbing opponents into the leadership of an organisation (Lawler, 1983). Dead Drops USB placement allows all users to have equal say in what is shared on the USB and therefore makes all participants’ equal leaders in the ‘group’ of peer-to-peer sharers. To evaluate the effectiveness of this persuasive technique we can compare this to Lawler’s (1983) investigation into cooptation tactics and its influence on group dynamics.

One-hundred-and-twenty volunteers were separated into three-person, same-sex groups consisting of one ‘leader’ and two subordinates. Actually all subjects were placed in a subordinate position and the communication from the leader and other subordinate was manipulated by the experiment. The groups partook in problem-solving tasks and were told the amount of money a group earns depends on their task performance. They were also told the group’s success would be enhanced by placing the person with the greatest task ability in a leadership role. Later the groups were told the leader could promote/demote subordinates with bonuses and fines to their ‘wages’. To evaluate the effectiveness of the cooptation technique the participants later checked a statement saying ‘I don’t want to form a coalition’ (against the leader) or ‘I want to form a coalition’ when communicating within the group.

The table above shows the frequency data of the results in probability form by experimental condition. Concentrating on the cooptation section of the table, we can see that the targets of cooptation were less vulnerable to influence from non-targets. Lawler (1983) also found that only the cooptation tactic induced the targets to act on their own interests. These results suggest that employing an active USB in a public area, containing desirable information, could be a highly effective persuasive technique that draws consumers in. Creating a social relationship between users of the service promotes their own interests and encourages them to actively upload information to the drive. Cooptation has been found to be more effective when the prospective promotion is perceived as a source of personal gain by the target (Lawler, 1983). Therefore we can deduct that the persuasive message, as portrayed by Dead Drops, uses an effective cooptation tactic to encourage users to upload, share and receive information at the USB points provided.

Lawler, E. (1983). Cooptation and Threats as "Divide and Rule" Tactics. Social Psychology Quarterly, 46(2), 89. doi:10.2307/3033845

Henrietta Esme Bennett

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