The Pygmalion Effect Case Study

The Pygmalion Effect is a phenomenon in which a person’s performance rises or falls according to the expectations of their leader. This can be seen in the workplace when employers see a team member not reaching their fullest potential. When employers set lofty but reachable goals and encourage employees to strive for them, employees respond to this positive influence. The trust and value imparted from the boss help to boost the confidence of the employee. Because of the level of moral all around, they may even exceed expectations.

Now, let’s look at a pretty fascinating example of this aspect of human behavior in packaging. VanMoof, a Dutch bike manufacturer, faced serious problems with costly bike parts being damaged during transit. Their high-end bikes are equipped with fragile electronics like an anti-theft system and pedal-assist technology that weren’t surviving the normal rough and tough handling of the delivery companies.

For a company that hopes to sell 90% of their bikes online by the end of the decade, this was a huge problem. But, the solution was surprisingly simple. VanMoof began printing the image of a flatscreen TV on the outside of their shipping boxes. The result was an astounding drop in damages – somewhere around 80%. Complaints have all but become extinct.

What does this prove in our study of human factors? The couriers didn’t think they were expected to handle a bike box with care. Since bikes are durable, why use caution? However, slap an image of a TV on the box, and you’ve got a different story. The expectations of a company that happened to be shipping TVs would be much higher. The couriers responded in kind, proving that we, as humans, respond to the level of expectations around us.

Learn more about the human factors of packaging design, like the Pygmalion Effect here.

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