Teaching common sense to people who don’t have a clue

08Jul10

I live in a tall building, and like most tall buildings, there is a trash chute on every floor. Right by the chute, there’s a sign explaining that you can only put actual trash bags down the chute. There are even drawings of what you shouldn’t force down the chute, including pizza boxes. It seems like common sense, yet the building management obviously knows that some residents are clueless enough that they need a reminder.

This makes me wonder: what’s the most effective way to teach people common sense and discourage them from doing stupid things? There are at least three approaches:

– Tell them what to do

– Tell them what not to do

– Tell them what not to do, and include a picture that illustrates the consequences

If I had to guess, the third approach would be the most effective. After all, if some portion of your audience lacks common sense, they probably won’t respond very well to a polite reminder about acting a certain way. But if you show them what happens when they ignore the warning, and that image is visceral enough to make them take notice, then there’s at least some chance they’ll behave in the way that you requested.



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