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Reading Comprehension Quiz for Bank exams: ‘Human behaviour is contagious: We all do as others do’

Jan 4, 2017 16:12 IST

    The competitive exams, these days, are also focused on judging your understanding and knowledge of the given subject. So, in order to hone your skills for your upcoming banking examination, we are we are bringing to you a Reading comprehension quiz taken from ‘Economic Times’ (dated December 29th, 2016).

    Article: ‘Human behaviour is contagious: We all do as others do’

    We did an interesting experiment in Mumbai some time back. We got 98 households across a few housing societies in Bandra and Khar to provide us with their electricity bills before the bills reached each member’s house. We then calculated the average bill amount in that particular society.

    Let’s say the average was Rs 1,022. For all above-average users, we put a stamp stating that the average in that society is Rs 1,022. Next to their above average amount, we put a frownie indicating that they could do better.

    The average number set the social norm and got the above average users to act like their neighbours and reduce their electricity consumption by 1.33 per cent. 1.33 per cent sounds small, but it can power 17,465 villages for one whole year. We called the experiment People Power because it gives people the power to make a difference at no cost.

    Human behaviour is contagious. Our actions are often guided by how people around us are behaving. The information provided by the stamp let the above-average users know how much their neighbours were consuming.

    That set the social norm and got them to reduce their power consumption. We do as others do. If people see other people littering, they litter too. If people see other people throwing waste in dustbins, they use dustbins too. If people see other people cheating, they cheat too. If people see other people being honest, they behave honestly too.

    Behavioural science studies show that people dress in the same styles as their friends, pick dishes preferred by other diners, choose restaurants that are more crowded, are more likely to get fat if people around them become fat, are more likely to quit smoking if their friends quit, pay taxes if others are paying, vote if their spouse votes, and so on. A five-star review on Amazon leads to approximately 20 more books sold than one-star reviews.

    This behavioural science principle of ‘social proof ‘ made a popular American infomercial for a home shopping channel change the all-toofamiliar call-to-action line at the end of the infomercial, “Operators are waiting, please call now” to “If operators are busy, please call again”. This simple change led to its sales skyrocketing.

    On the face of it, the change seems foolhardy. After all, the message indicates that one may have to waste their time redialing till they reach a sales representative. Yet it worked so brilliantly.

    Consider the kind of mental image that’s likely to get generated when you hear, ‘Operators are waiting, please call now’ — scores of bored phone representatives while they wait by their silent telephones — an image indicative of low demand and poor sales.

    Consider how your perception of the popularity of the product would change when you hear, ‘If operators are busy, please call again’ — operators going from phone call to phone call without a break, right? That made people think: ‘If the phone lines are busy, then other people like me who are also watching this infomercial must be calling too.

    Most people think they are different. But in reality most of us behave the way others do. So powerful is the effect of others on us that television executives love to fill comedy shows with canned laughter.

    Experiments by lots of behavioural scientists have found that the use of canned laughter causes an audience to laugh longer and more often when humorous material is presented. People rate the material as funnier. In addition, evidence indicates that canned laughter is most effective for poor jokes.

    In another experiment conducted by behavioural scientists Noah Goldstein, Robert Cialdini and Vladas Griskevicius (‘A Room with a Viewpoint: Using Social Norms to Motivate Environmental Conservation in Hotels’, goo.gl/OJT1pb), different kinds of signs were placed in hotel rooms. One of the signs asked guests to help save the environment by reusing their towels.

    The second one informed them that the majority of guests at the hotel recycled their towels to help save the environment. The second sign had a success rate of 26 per cent more than the first sign.

    A third sign informed guests that majority of people who had previously stayed in their particular room recycled their towels to help save the environment. The third sign had a success rate of 33 per cent more than the first sign.

    Now only if hotels could apply the same principle to reducing theft of towels, shampoos, bedsheets, stationary and, yes, appliances too.

    1. Why, according to the author, do you think that human behavior is contagious?

    1. We are wired for social interaction and bonding.
    2. We copy other people’s habits and styles.
    3. Our actions guided by how people around us are behaving.
    4. All of the above.
    5. Other than those given in the options.

    Solution: Option (4)

    Explanation: According to the passage, our human behaviour is contagious in nature since most of our actions are guided by how people around us are behaving. Our heads are wired for social interaction and bonding. Therefore, we tend to copy other’s behavior, likes, and dislikes, etc. This makes option (4) the right choice among the given options.

    2. How this behavioral science principle helped a popular American infomercial?

    1. Their mental image was improved.
    2. Their sales were skyrocketing.
    3. The perception of their customers changed.
    4. It was hard to resist their offer.
    5. Other than those given in the options.

    Solution: Option (2)

    Explanation: According to the passage,the behavioural science principle of social influence made a popular American infomercial for a home shopping channel change by making customers believe that the operators are waiting for them at the other end of the line. This simple change led to its sales skyrocketing.So, this makes (2) the right choice among the given options.

    3. Why, according to the author, the television executives fill comedy shows with canned laughter?

    1. They don’t have anything else to show.
    2. People like to laugh at others.
    3. People laugh more on poor jokes.
    4. Both (2) and (3).
    5. Other than those given in the options.

    Solution: Option (4)

    Explanation: According to the passage, the use of canned laughter causes an audience to laugh longer and more often when a humorous material is presented. Also, the canned laughter is most effective for poor jokes as well.This makes option (4) an apt choice.

    4. How, according to the passage, does the simple experiment conducted by behavioral scientists helped hotel industry?

    1. It prevented hotel room theft.
    2. It helped the hotel to remain clean and clear.
    3. It helped the hotel to reuse towels.
    4. It helped the hotel to convince guests to copy others.
    5. Other than those given in the options.

    Solution: Option (3)

    Explanation: According to the experiment conducted by behavioural scientists Noah Goldstein, Robert Cialdini and Vladas Griskevicius (‘A Room with a Viewpoint: Using Social Norms to Motivate Environmental Conservation in Hotels’), hotels were encouraged to give guests the option of reusing their towels to help save their environment. So, this makes option (3) an apt choice among the given options.

    5. Why, according to the passage, the experiment was called as “People Power”?

    1. Because it gives people the power to socialize and mingle with others.
    2. Because it gives people the power to make a difference at no cost.
    3. Because it gives people the power to copy others, without feeling ashamed.
    4. Because it gives people the power to listen to their souls.
    5. Other than those given in the options.

    Solution: Option (2)

    Explanation: According to the passage, the experiment was called as “People Power” because it gives people the power to make a difference at no cost. So, this makes (2) an apt choice among the given options.

    6. What is your take on human behavior after reading the above passage?

    1. Human behavior is complex and difficult to understand.
    2. Human behavior is influenced by attitude, perception, cultural and social norms, etc.
    3. Human behavior is influenced by their subconscious mind.
    4. Human behavior is impossible to change.
    5. Other than those given in the options.

    Solution: Option (2)

    Explanation: According to the passage, human beahviour is influential and guided by other’s choice, traits or habits. So, this makes option (2) the right choice among the given options.

    7. Which among the following is similar in meaning to the word ‘contagious’ as used in the passage?

    1. Evil
    2. Harmless
    3. Expensive
    4. Infectious
    5. Other than those given in above options

    Solution: Option (4)

    Explanation: Among the given options, ‘Infectious’ is the right choice since the given word implies that the human behavior is contagious in nature. Their consumption and their habits are influenced by their natural surroundings.

    8. Which among the following is similar in meaning to the word ‘skyrocketing’ used in the passage?

    1. Escalating
    2. Descending
    3. Aspiring
    4. Ripping
    5. Other than those given in the options

    Solution: Option (1)

    Explanation: Among the given options, ‘Escalating’ is the right choice since the given word implies that the behavioral change adopted by a home shopping channel led to its rising sales.

    9. Which among the following is opposite in meaning to the word ‘foolhardy’ as used in the passage?

    1. Thoughtful
    2. Risky
    3. Adventurous
    4. Foolish
    5. Other than those given in the options

    Solution: Option (1)

    Explanation: Among the given options, ‘Thoughtful’ is the right choice.  Since the behavioral change adopted by a home shopping channel led to skyrocketing sales but it was rather an uncalculated move.

    10. Which among the following is opposite in meaning to the word ‘frownie’ as used in the passage?

    1. Pout
    2. Sulk
    3. Smirk
    4. Smile
    5. Other than those given in the options

    Solution: Option (4)

    Explanation: Among the given options, ‘smile’ is the right choice. Frownie depicts an emotion for sadness or sulk. Hence, the opposite emotion is smiley (smile). According to the context, the above-average users were marked with a sad point with a hope that they can do better.

    DISCLAIMER: JPL and its affiliates shall have no liability for any views, thoughts and comments expressed on this article.

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