To flatten the COVID-19 curve, target the subconscious

Source(s): Scientific American, a Division of Nature America, Inc.

By Leslie Zane


Understanding the brand connectome

Years ago, psychologist Daniel Kahneman won the Nobel Prize for his work showing that the human mind has shortcuts (“heuristics”) that overpower rational decision-making. Last year in Knowledge@Wharton, psychology and neuroscience professor Michael Platt and I shared our discovery about what lies inside those shortcuts: intricate networks of brand associations accumulated over time, years in the making—some going as far back as childhood. We call these networks the “Brand Connectome,” named after the human connectome, a map of the brain’s neural connections. 


In the case of COVID-19, everyone, not just patients, is being asked to change their lifestyle behavior. It’s the most comprehensive behavior-change initiative in modern history. No wonder so many people remain resistant. 

To change minds, officials need to market their message directly to people’s instinctive decision-making mechanism—their “Corona Connectome.”


To change the connectome of people who are noncompliant, officials need to pack their messages with the right cues that help leverage positive associations quickly. [...] Use imagery of famous people in protective gear delivering food to seniors’ doors. Make adherence, from using antibacterial wipes to staying home, a badge of honor. Feature rap artists, celebrity athletes and movie stars telling people to shelter at home. Use metaphors, like the proactive treatment of a small cancer cell, to explain the importance of stopping the virus as early as possible.  


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