A Herd-Mentality Nudge on the Singapore Subway

Our “Riding the Herd Mentality” podcast argued that one surprisingly effective way to encourage pro-social behavior is to simply tell people that everybody else is already doing it.

A reader named Freek Rijna — “Jep, that’s my real name and it’s typically Dutch. :-)” — sends in this example from the Singapore subway. “Thought you might enjoy it,” Freek writes. “Not sure about the penguins though …”


I see Freek’s point. Also, I might have to stop for a minute to think whether “alighting” means getting off or getting on …

Teo Gen Ming

I'm a Singaporean and would like to share a bit more context on our lovely "penguins" :)

The subway adverts only started after a social phenomenal was posted on YouTube. In 1 particular subway station, commuters actually queued up in a proper line by 2 sides of the train door and this caused quite a stir within the social media community.

Then came the advert several months down the road to piggy back on the social media hype regarding such pro-social behaviour. By then, the above social phenomenal had already spread to roughly a quarter of the subway stations.

I would argue the Herd-Mentality nudge might be effective in nudging the adoption rate past it's tipping point. Attributing it to attaining sufficient critical mass is inconclusive at best.


Reminds me of that Sacramento program to nudge people into saving electicity by doling out smiley and frowney faces on utility bills (http://www.nytimes.com/2009/01/31/science/earth/31compete.html?_r=0)...

That being said, I'm Singaporean and the figures have been met with widespread skepticism -- another poster claimed 94% of commuters give up their seats for the elderly/disabled/pregnant, raising a few eyebrows given that there have also been plenty of reports about commuters feigning sleep so they don't have to give up their seats.

1. Self-reported data really isn't that reliable...
2. Seems like these inflated figures are an optimistic picture of what we should be doing rather than what we are actually doing?

Enter your name...

The key phrase is "felt like": people told a surveyor that this was good. That doesn't mean that they are actually do it.


I'm sure 98% of subway passengers would also take the message on-board more readily if it wasn't on a sign with seven different font sizes and styles.

Right message, wrong presentation.


I was in Singapore last month and when I saw these, the first thing I said to my boyfriend was "I guess someone at SMRT listens to Freakonomics!"