The Nudgelet
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The Nudgelet

‘This is Sparta!’ : The Art of Persuasive Emails

By Udoyon Banerjee, UG 21, Head of Operations and Research

Quarantine has indeed made the movie 300 relevant.

The onslaught of endless emails against one single mind, two laptops, your Iphone, and 5 cups of coffee does seem to be analogous to the Million Strong Persian Army against your 300 Spartans. It is moreover daunting, as you do have important things to read, respond, and write about through those emails.

So wherefore comes the Nudging?

It is both in learning which emails to read, how to communicate back, and to find the content of the email without reading it in its entirety. This article looks at two prime principles — How to communicate effectively and how to absorb communication effectively. Let us start with the latter.

The Mad Hunt for Memes, Graphic Designers and vacuous, pretentious lexicons. ( jargon for jargon)

When writing or reading an email, you may have noticed a sharp upswing, on visual content, changes in font, and other such cues springing up on your email.

This very simple, yet effective task utilizes a principle called Salience.

A number of actions have been shown to improve salience. We pay attention to information or objects that stand out and catch our eye.( See what I did there?)

Very simply as the amount of information keeps expanding, the good communicator will try to find better ways to reduce the cognitive ease of the email reader.

But what exactly is cognitive ease?

Now you can argue I have not used that meme correctly, which is exactly what cognitive ease is about- making information available in a way that makes you expend as little mental capacity as possible. For the writer of an email, Make it Easy, Make it colourful, hire A graphic designer, the more fun it is to look at, the greater your chance of people actually retaining the information presented within the email. For the reader of the email, think about the meme I just attached, the reason you felt it was used correctly or incorrectly is because you have seen it being used many times before. As such it is significantly easier for you to point out whether the meme is presented correctly or not, which means you have responded to my message.

An additional pointer here would be not to be heavy on jargon, especially let us say you are sending an email about Nudges, and people do not know what they are. Analogies are important here, using an example allows people to warrant a guess without knowing the concept itself which once again allows engagement. ( For instance, notice that I did not explain what salience was?).

Finally, I would like to leave with a question, why did I expound on the use of cognitive science on communication? Why not writing or talking itself? This because this piece dealt with only the ability to improve communication of certain content by behavioral interventions, not utilizing these interventions within the content itself. That is a form of debate I would love to see presented. Do you believe these nudges should be implemented, on what we write and talk about?



The Ashoka Behavioural Insights Team’s flagship publication.

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