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Utilising Psychological Motivation to Create Positive Behaviour in the Society

The whole world is currently experiencing a difficult time in fighting against the COVID-19 pandemic. Patrick Fagan from the Capuchin Behavioural Science states that the great concern during the crisis has led to the emergence of irrational behaviours practised by a lot of society groups in the world.

For example, during the COVID-19 outbreak, it is seen that people are racing in hoarding daily supplies and food from the stores, especially the items that are recommended to maintain hygiene such as masks, hand sanitisers, or other hygiene products.


This behavior is driven by cognitive bias or thinking fallacy where people make speculation to buy the aforementioned items while they still can and the products are still available. People believe that they would feel much safer by stockpiling these products while the stock is depleting as a result of the disrupted supply chain during the pandemic. In reality, this behaviouris seen as harmful for the people who really need the products instead.

Through this phenomenon, it is shown that people’s concerns can cause changes in the behaviour of every individual quite drastically. Psychologically, people tend to think that the world is a filthy place to live because it is surrounded with Corona virus. Moreover, an advice from the World Health Organization (WHO) to maintain hygiene and health in order to avoid the virus has encouraged people to buy a lot of hygiene products and healthy food.

The changes of spontaneous and irrational action in people's behaviour can actually be directed into a more positive way through psychological motivation. For example, schools in Bangladesh tried using psychological motivation by attaching footprint stickers on the floor that lead students to the toilet and also providing hand stickers on the sink to remind students, teachers, staff, and visitors to wash their hands. This course of action has been showing success ratein raising awareness of handwashing in those schools from 17% to 63%.

Such success indicates that alternative strategic health campaigns can be increasingly encouraged to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. However, to create a successful behavioural change, it is important to understand the characteristics of each society so that themessage can be delivered well. Thus, utilising psychological motivation can potentially have a profound impact on audience behaviour.


According to Google Trend’s popularity data which was analysed by Kompas, Indonesians were not very interested in searching news regarding Corona virus, especially before the virus entered the country.

‘As long as it does not happen in my area, that’s okay.’

This kind of behaviour is called ‘nimby’ which shows the relations between the observer (in this case, Indonesian people) and the event (COVID-19 phenomenon). However, when the geographical distance from the event gets closer, there is a change in relations from ‘observers’ to ‘victims’. This led to the increase of vigilance, or even fright that occurs in Indonesian society.

‘Hopefully it won’t happen in my area.’

The psychological motivation from that behaviour has caused rejections towards everything that is related to COVID-19. For example, the people who inhabit Natuna Island who reject the idea to use their land as an isolation centre for Indonesian citizens who just returned from Wuhan. There are also some areas that refuse their place to be made as a cemetery for the victims who died from the virus. This fear has changed the way Indonesians behave and made them less tolerant. The nimby attitude of Indonesian people also fuelsthe fear as a result of lack of awareness and knowledge of COVID-19 before it arrived in the country.

This phenomenon should be utilised by brands, agencies, or communication experts to build a collaborative campaign. Currently, we can easily find brands that launch COVID-19 related campaigns every day, starting from donation to PR stunt. However, there is not yet a collaborative campaign from brands in the same industry as of now.

Ride-hailing companies, for example, are competing as if they would win a trophy for the best campaign awards. The same thing is also seen in the e-commerce industries and other industries. In fact, if those brands can cooperate on communication strategies together, a collaborative campaign can be born from here.

Through the messages of togetherness for Indonesian people, this collaborative campaign hopefully could change the grass roots’ behaviour respectively in responding to various situations from the COVID-19 impacts.

Written by: Rizky Sagita Daniar and Jonathan Cohen

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