Good Information Makes Decisions Self-Evident

In principle, there are basically three ways to influence the choices people make. You can regulate what people cannot do and punish violations. You can offer incentives to encourage certain choices. Or you can provide accurate information that rings so true it compels good choices.

If you believe that for the most part people want to do the right thing, the most effective and peaceful method of influencing good decisions is to provide good information so “the right thing” becomes self-evident.

For example, historically Maine has had one of the highest teen smoking rates in the nation. We have made laws against teen smoking and imposed punishments for violations. We have attached penalties to smoking such as high taxes on cigarettes. These methods have not worked very well. Only recently have we seen the rate dramatically decline, and that has been because we launched an information campaign that has made clear the detrimental health effects of cigarette smoking. We have provided good information on TV and radio. For all those that “want to do the right thing,” it has been clear what the right thing is.

Practical Tip: Provide all decision makers with the best possible information about the issue being considered. Good, truthful information is terribly compelling. Actually, good information is the only thing that is truly compelling and results in good, sustainable decisions.