A better train warning, by Final Mile
An average of 10 people per day get killed by trains in Mumbai. With intelligent signage and design, however, they’ve managed the deaths on one line (Wadala) dropped from 23 (every six months) to 9 (in the same period). What makes the design more effective? It wasn’t more expensive (it was free), nor was it more restrictive. It was simply more scientific, dealing with the human brain as it is, not as we’d like it to be. Both economics and marketing presume that humans are rational actors, which we’re not. We’re monkeys with pants. Having some understanding for the brain can produce positive results. Which also look better.
The Wadala experiment was conducted by the Mumbai behavior architects Final Mile and covered at boston.com. What they basically did was add pictures of dudes getting run over to allow for the fact that we have little emotional reaction to symbolic signage and add some visual cues to the fact that trains are fast (something we tend to underestimate). They blogged about the drop in death rates here.
Personally, I think that many people have gotten too comfortable with media and the way we do things – post a sign, anyone who crosses is dumb. Everything really needs to be re-evaluated in terms of the end user, and their subtle but knowable brain. Really interesting work that Final Mile is doing.