News & Views
When behavioural economics gets emotional

The following story was told at UCL’s Behaviour Change Month.

A mother with a 2 year old in a pushchair and a 5 year old walking alongside were about to descend an escalator on the London tube. In the chaos, the parent managed to get the pushchair on the escalator safely but the 5 year old child froze at the top and didn’t get on, the parent looked visibly horrified stuck on the descending escalator whilst desperately trying to encourage her stranded child to get on.

Luckily a trained nurse about to step onto the escalator saw this and asked the child to take her hand. The child (very sensibly) refused. So the nurse changed tactic, she asked the child, ‘Please can you help me? I’m scared of going down escalators by myself’. The child happily said ‘Sure’ and led the nurse by the hand down the escalator. At the bottom the child asked ‘Are you alright now?’ The mum despite being visibly shaken took a great sigh of relief.

The lesson here is that sometimes we have to be a bit clever to get the right result, and that by re-framing the situation we can often get just the result we were after.

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