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.

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Queue 1 Project

The problem: Bus Chaos
This project aimed to tackle a specific problem regarding behaviour at the University of Warwick; the excessive overcrowding and bunching of students at the Kirby Corner Bus Stand on the university campus, also known as chaotic bus rush! During peak hours (typically 16.00-19.00) a large number of students wait to catch the U1 bus operated by Stagecoach West Midlands from the university campus to Leamington Spa. Currently, there are no systems in place to regulate the large crowds of people waiting during these times. 

Why is this issue important?
More than anything, the crowding problem at the University bus stand is a problem of perceived fairness. In a sample of 96 University of Warwick students commuting by bus, 86% agreed or strongly agreed that they are frustrated when people get on the bus ahead of them despite waiting longer and 80% agreed or strongly agreed they would feel more comfortable if people queued for the bus. For all of the hype about the British and their ability to queue- Warwick does not seem to do a very good job!

The issue is also one of public health and safety, putting many students at risk of injury from the crowd as well as danger of being forced out onto the road of approaching buses. It would only take one accident before the University themselves would be forced to take action. This is particularly relevant for students with physical disabilities who are more at risk of injury from the crowds. One of the authors of this project gained experience of this after being knocked from their crutches during a rush hour crowd surge. 

In addition, crowding has been found to be a source of stress and a negative impact on commuter satisfaction (Canwell et al.). This is a matter of concern for the University, particularly during Term 3 where stressful exams already play a negative role in student wellbeing. 

Our solution: Prepare to be nudged

'We will attempt to facilitate queuing with a low cost, low maintenance solution with the potential to be implemented on a long term basis'

This will include a combination of persuasive posters asking people to queue and floor guidance in the form of high visibility tape for people to follow. Should the tape not be a strong enough indicator, we plan to use retractable pole barriers to mark out a more structured queue. 

Research: How to get the best queue? 
Katz et al. (1991) observed several techniques for reducing the negative perceptions of waiting in line. Taking example from Disneyland, where families are happy to queue upwards of 40 minutes for a 2 minute ride. An important aspect of this is distraction from the queue. Entertaining aspects of a queue which can be anything from music to mirrors to visual distractions can be beneficial. With limited scope for structural changes, our project will aim to do this by including humorous posters that have personal relevance to University of Warwick students which the queue will move past. 

In addition, several business reports have looked into the most efficient structures of queuing. Results seem to show that a single line (rather than multiple lines) queue is best, particularly when in a serpentine structure to enable more perceived movement and optimize floor space (Tensator, 2016). In addition, the single serpentine line seems ‘socially fairer’ which was one of our main considerations with this project (Edmund, 2016). 

Proposed queue structure

Are there benefits to Stagecoach for queuing? Research in psychology has suggested how queuing can add value to goods or services (Koo et al., 2010). Although Cialdini’s work (2009) on social proof would suggest ‘more popular products will draw longer lines’, Koo et al. (2010) suggest the important feature for adding perceived value is being able to look back along a line, see one’s own progress and other people who are still joining the queue. With this in mind it was important we designed a queue that had a mid-point where students could see the beginning of the line.

Research: Persuasion techniques

The main technique we were hoping to use is social proof (Cialdini, 2009), which stems from peoples uncertainty as to what to do in a situation, prompting them to follow the example of others as a template for how to act. This leads to people imitating the crowd and can be useful for influencing people to follow norms set out in a society. Our task in implementing this behaviour change technique is beginning the queue in the first place. We had observed over the years at university a queue form at the bus stop spontaneously, but these were very rare events. The theory of social proof would suggest that if the queue began, people would conform to the new social norm of queuing.

Regarding our tape and posters, our technique for this involved borrowing the principle of nudging from Thaler and Sunstein (1999). Their research suggested that a principle of libertarian paternalism is a way of manipulating the choices of a group, in a non-restrictive way, to facilitate the choice of a “best” option- in this case queuing for the benefit of everyone involved. Following this principle we decided retractable pole barriers should only be used as a last resort. Moreover, the lower the cost of the solution, the more likely Warwick Estates would be to utilize the technique once our project was over. 

The posters we used were designed to work together with the nudge principles of the tape and reinforce the message that queuing was the desired norm. It can cause discomfort or shame to defy a social norm (Sunstein, 1996) and the posters restating that queuing should be the status quo aimed to play on this. The posters were tailored to firstly suggest that you should queue, second be relevant to warwick or university life, and thirdly to be humorous. Making the message relevant to the people who would be looking at it was building upon the idea that people like things we know and recognise more than things we do not (Rindfleisch & Inman, 1998), suggesting that this tailored approach may make the posters more effective.. Humour is an important tool in advertising to make a message more memorable and more likeable (Chung & Zhao, 2003) and therefore more likely to discuss them with others (Porter & Golan, 2006).

Summary of methods: 

Materials: Posters
Poster ideas were designed by the authors of the project then created by Warwick Estates Secretary Laura McHugh.

Materials: Tape
2 types of tape were tested on the bus stand floor area. These were tested to comply with Warwick Estates regulations that the tape would be anti-slip, high visibility and not leave any marks or residue when lifted from the floor surface.
Both types of tape were purchased from Tape A: Tape B:

Tape A: Pilot Study
Tape B: Project Launch

Measurement: Once the tape and posters were in place, we would aim to measure the results by routine observations on the hour, every hour at peak times (16.00, 17.00, 18.00 and 19.00pm) for 20 minutes over the course of a minimum 3 day period. This would be documented by taking photographs. This repeated monitoring would give us the opportunity to see new groups of students every time to see if they queued.

Project timeline: 

Meeting with Liam Jackson, Education Sabbatical Officer of the Students Union in SUHQ to discuss feasibility of project
Meeting with Suzanne England, Head of Warwick Estates in SUHQ to pitch project
Poster designs created and sent to Warwick Estates
Meeting with Suzanne England and Secretary Laura McHugh in University House to review and approve completed poster designs
Pilot trial at the bus stop. Negative outcome due to poor tape and POP that evening. 2x posters missing.
Project launch cancelled due to bad weather
Project launch cancelled due to bad weather
Project successful launch. Negative outcome.

Results: Pilot study Posters and tape were set up for our pilot study on the 21st of February at approximately 3pm. Tape A was used in the pilot study. Initially we found some success on the day of our pilot study, with approving comments about the posters and the genuine creation of a dozen or so person queue.

Pilot study: The formation of a queue!

Unfortunately, this was not maintained later in that day as the tape became loose from the floor causing confusion and disregard. Over the next two days, the tape was removed from the floor and posters alone were not a strong enough indicator to form a queue.

Results: Project launch
Learning from the limitations of the pilot study, Tape B was bought and tested a day before the project launch. On the day of the launch, a thorough sweep of the floor surface was carried out (one of the reasons the tape may not have stuck during the pilot study).

While initial indications seemed positive, measurement at 16.00, 17.00, 18.00, and 19.00 on the day of the project launch indicated no signs of any naturally forming queue. Moreover, despite new tape and warmer weather, the uneven nature of the stone at the bus stop made it very difficult for tape to stay down longer than a few hours. Particularly, when multitudes of students walk over this area at peak times. Repeated observations for the next 2 days indicated no further developments and the tape had to be removed on day 3 due to its degradation.

Despite a lack of queue, overall feedback we received regarding the posters was very positive. We observed several students sharing them via social media such as Snapchat and commenting on them at the bus stand, unfortunately though, posters alone are not enough to nudge people to queue.

Regarding the next stage in our contingency plan repeated efforts were made to get hold of retractable pole barriers. Several departments at the University were contacted including Warwick SU, Warwick Estates, Warwick Conferences, Warwick Events, Warwick Arts Centre, Warwick Car Parking, Warwick Health and Safety Help Desk and Warwick Accommodation, however, none were able to offer assistance. While research was carried out towards purchasing pole barriers, a lack of funding at this stage ruled this out.
Overall, the idea that of queuing as social proof has not been diminished, it is merely a case of providing a strong enough suggestion for the first people at the bus stand to start queuing. This was reinforced again by survey questions added to one of the authors final year research project with 96 University of Warwick commuters whereby: 92.9% of students agreed if they saw others queuing they would also queue.
Discussion and reccomendations for the future: Following the last renovation of the bus shelter over a year previously, rules and norms have been set up to avoid queuing, which while unpopular, have remained the norm. Our attempts to implement a new norm and persuade people to queue were not strong enough to overcome these established norms, namely, standing in front of the shelter to be as close as possible to the bus. It only takes a few of individuals to following their own norms and violating ours to make the concept of the queue redundant and make people less likely to conform. The main reasons we believe we were not able to establish new norms were firstly a limitation of our materials. We conclude that tape is fundamentally unsuitable for establishing floor guidance at this particular bus stop. Secondly, several students commented that the posters should have been larger and more visible, however, due to regulations from Warwick Estates this was not possible (CCTV must be able to see into the bus stand). Were efforts made to re-attempt queuing at a low cost level, we would suggest paint would be a more suitable alternative, fulfilling the non- prescriptive nature of a good queuing system, as well as lasting longer.

For a more successful method however, we would conclude that behavioural nudging methods may not be enough to fully implement behaviour change. In this instance, it seems clear guidance and prescriptive materials such as pole barriers are necessary to start the formation of a queue.

We would still recommend adherence to the poster designs which received positive feedback and could provide a good addition to a more physical behavioural measure such as the pole barriers. They would be more salient and salient messages are typically more influential when making a judgement (Taylor & Thompson, 1982).
In summary we believe that the project had promise. People approved of the materials we created and the ideals behind why we were doing it. To more successfully instigate change however, we would recommend the use of more prescriptive and physical guidance such as pole barriers and a larger version of the posters we used.

By Rory Stoddart and James Nolan

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