Eliciting Intrinsic Motivation and Reframing Problems, with Rachel Lawes

Rachel Lawes joins us on Episode 22 of the Re-Thinking the Human Factor Podcast. Rachel gave a fantastic interview back in series one of the podcast, and if you haven’t had a chance to listen yet, please check it out here when you’re able. We’ve received feedback from a few people recently about how they were really blown away by what Rachel had to say about semiotics as well as how she spoke more broadly about branding, behaviour, and the role of semiotics in behaviour and culture. 

Eliciting Intrinsic Motivation and Reframing Problems, with Rachel Lawes

by Bruce Hallas | Re-thinking the Human Factor Podcast

Rachel is the author of some of the earliest published papers in semiotics and she’s proud to have been involved at a time when it was first emerging in the UK. She uses it, and her academic background in social science, to rejuvenate brands, innovate products and services and steer comms.

Rachel conducts research projects using semiotics, ethnography and discourse analysis. She delivers training for client side and agency users, and she supplies consultancy to ad agencies and large branding agencies. She also works with universities because she loves to teach.

“People are shocked at what they fall for when they think they’re actually defending themselves…”


  • Some clever and engaging videos created by airlines as well as one created by Burger King that featured Snoop Dog, the difference between having an engaging comms piece vs. one that actually elicits behavioural change, and budget issues many cyber security awareness professionals are up against when it comes to the creation of engaging awareness materials.
  • Thinking of Security as a product, almost from a branding or marketing sense.
  • The fact that humans get used to information they see over and over, so it is important to consistently apply innovation to crafting awareness and training materials.
  • Film, audio, visual approach to creating awareness and training campaigns and whether or not there’s a better way to accomplish the same goal.
  • The use of incentives within awareness and training campaigns – do they work? If not, what’s a better way to elicit engagement and behaviour change from campaigns?
  • Extrinsic vs. intrinsic motivation, and which is more effective in catalysing behaviour change.
  • How science has shown that intrinsic motivation is more long-lasting than extrinsic motivation, but for many organisations, a good portion of their awareness budget is spent on incentives, which are extrinsic in nature. With budgets being an issue, would it not be better to spend the money on something that would have an intrinsically motivating effect?
  • It’s possible that incentives have their place to accomplish short-term, tactical awareness measures. However, heads of organisations must be communicated with regarding the short-term nature of the incentives program for which they they are approving money, and they also need to know to be prepared for the need for longer-term, intrinsic measures to be funded.
  • The fact that some operate on the model that use of fear, uncertainty, and doubt as scare tactics are going to get people’s attention (a practice based on a study of Maslow’s “Hierarchy of Needs” concept). Rachel has a different take on this, though, and health campaigns geared towards getting folks to stop smoking stand as a shining example of what she has to say.
    • Bruce also posits that instead of fear, cyber security professionals should create policies that are easier to accomplish than those that were enacted previously. Alleviating friction, alleviating the heaviness (fear / uncertainty) of a policy actually increases the likeliness of compliance.
  • The environment in which people are making decisions about whether or not to comply with a policy will have triggers. Those triggers, when they are triggered, are going to increase the likelihood that people aren’t going to choose to comply.  So, understanding the environment first, and understanding that we make choices in that environment, are core parts of what cyber security professionals must do.
  • The difference between telling people what they need to do vs. telling people what they need to do and explaining why.
  • That awareness and training managers should use the word “DON’T” as little as possible when explaining policies and procedures, while a more successful approach will be to  explain what people should “DO”.





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Bruce & The Re-thinking the Human Factor Podcast Team

Eliciting Intrinsic Motivation and Reframing Problems, with Rachel Lawes

by Bruce Hallas | Re-thinking the Human Factor Podcast

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