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Behavior Change
When Changing Our Behavior Becomes a Public Health Imperative

According to Krukow Behavioral Design, a combination of the right colors, behavioral transmitters and social norms can help fuel the mass behavior change necessary from stemming the spread of COVID-19.

As the coronavirus outbreak continues to spread across the globe, Copenhagen’s Krukow Behavioral Design has created a series of help packages and nudge solutions for immediate optimization of hygiene and behavior in supermarkets, pharmacies, hospitals, nursing homes, etc. The specially designed messaging to make it easy and intuitive for citizens to comply with various public-health recommendations — such as using hand sanitizer and keeping social distance.

According to Krukow — which has also applied its behavioral design strategies to help brands, supermarkets, etc create the right conditions for guiding consumers into healthier and more sustainable lifestyle and consumption habits — the makeup of the human psyche makes it challenging for us to translate communicated guidelines into behavioral change when we are shopping, entering a hospital or a pharmacy. As founder Sille Krukow has explained, our behavior is driven by two types of thinking: 90 percent of our brain functions on automatic thinking or habit, while only 10 percent uses reflective thinking to drive our choices; this kind of thinking requires much more effort and is not a dominant driver of human behavior.

Therefore, if we are not constantly reminded of doing the right thing, in the right way and in the right contexts, we are likely to fail. So, since the pace of creating behavioral change at scale is crucial for preventing the virus from continuing to spread unencumbered, Krukow designed a kit of nudges tailored to this express purpose.

In creating the nudges, Krukow emphasized several subtle but crucial changes needed to make many existing coronavirus-related public health measures more effective:

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    Visibility and placement — inconsistency in the placement/visibility of hand sanitizer dispensers, for example, creates inconsistent results.

  • Communications and information — inconsistency in virus-related messaging creates confusion and overwhelm; and Krukow says a profusion of written information resonates poorly with the human brain and reduces the odds of visitors doing the right thing.

  • Use of icons and colors — common use of colors and symbols that signify danger and/or alarm- increase fear, which can lead to inappropriate behaviors such as hoarding.

The Krukow team’s nudges aim to address these pitfalls through carefully chosen color schemes (such as blues — which create calm and intuitively relate to hygiene, and therefore do not induce panic), helpful/instructive icons vs those that signify danger; and optimal placement of these icons, to easily illustrate the new social norms needed — from all of us, whether we feel sick or not — during the outbreak.

Download an introduction to the Krukow COVID-19 Nudge Solutions and the print-friendly nudge files here. For questions about the implementation of the solutions or more COVID-19-related solutions, please contact Krukow at [email protected].