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ESL Conversation Topic - Crowd Control
Crowd Control Contents
How do you get people to stop doing naughty thing? This ESL conversation topic looks at novel ways of trying to charge human behaviour. Is it manipulation or do people do it full their full knowledge and consent?
First read the text with your ESL class and then discuss the 26 questions below.
Time: 40-60 minutes.
Levels: Intermediate, upper-intermediate and advanced.
ESL Conversation Topics - Crowd Control
Have you heard of Crowd Control? It's a fun new show by the National Geographic channel that tries to explain and improve naughty human behaviour by using undercover scientific experiments. This article was written to promote dialogue and discussion in your ESL classroom. Here are a few of the highlights of the experiments carried out:
Pink Rooms – Some prisons in Switzerland have painted their walls pink in an attempt to reduce levels of aggression. Surprisingly, the results are quite positive. The colour is believed to have a physically soothing effect and angry inmates cool down in about 15 minutes. Even police stations have started using them. The police officers agree that the drunks fall asleep quicker in a pink room than in a normal cell. A football coach in Iowa even went so far as to paint its visitors' locker rooms pink in order to make the players more passive. With this in mind, the show changed the colour of a Vehicle Impoundment Office, where towed cars are taken. It seemed to work too. Angry customers came into the office looking for their cars and ready to fight, but the majority of them left calmly, some even with smiles on their faces.
Mobile Phone Walkway – Mobile phone addiction is fast becoming a problem in China and that's why the authorities liked the idea of creating a walkway specifically for people who are glued to their devices. A 100 foot stretch of pavement has been divided down the middle of the footpath with white lines and signs giving instructions. The idea was taken from the National Geographic show, although the programme noted that most people were so distracted by their phones that they did not see the signs anyway. Will it work in China? Well, I guess we just have to watch this space...
The Simple Lemon - Crowd Control went to a men's room at a baseball stadium to try to encourage more men to wash their hands after using the bathroom. They pumped the smell of lemon into the bathroom and it greatly increased the number of people washing their hands compared to an hour earlier. That is because smells can affect our behaviour and the smell of lemon is associated with cleanliness. A simple idea, but a very effective one.
Music the Motivator - In Britain classical music is being used as a weapon. Train stations, bus stations and supermarket chains are playing it through speakers to prevent anti-social behaviour. Groups of teenagers and trouble-makers generally don't like classical music and so instead of hanging around intimidating workers, passengers and customers, they move on to somewhere else. Realising that music can act as both a deterrent and a motivator, the programme decided to change people's mindsets about using escalators and stairs. They decorated the steps and turned it into a beatbox stairway, so when people chose the stairs they made music as they walked up. They turned exercise into a fun activity and the pedestrians didn't even notice they were working out.
Musical Roads – In an attempt to get people to stop speeding along Route 66 in America an experiment by Crowd Control placed 'rumble strips' along the road (pieces of metal that make a noise when your vehicle passes it). You can only hear the song if you reduce your speed to 45 miles per hour and it has proved to be a successful safety trick to stop people falling asleep at the wheel and speeding.
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ESL/EFL Discussion Questions
- Have you ever watched this programme? If yes, then what other experiments did they perform that you found memorable?
- The main aim of Crowd Control is to get people to change their behaviour by making the activity fun, so that they will choose to do something rather than being told to do something. Do you think this concept is applicable in all walks of life?
- How do you think the prisoners and the football teams feel being surrounded by pink?
- Have you ever felt like a colour had an effect on you? Think about blue, red and black rooms or different types of lighting.
- Do you think that people were just so shocked by the colour that they were distracted rather than calmer? Do you think it even matters?
- Have you ever had to pay a parking ticket or had your car impounded?
- Are you addicted to your mobile phone?
- How much time a day do you spend checking it?
- Does anything annoy you about the way people behave with their phones?
- Do you think the separate walkways are a good idea?
- Do you think mobile phones should be banned from school or work?
- Did you ever leave a bathroom without washing your hands?
- Do smells ever remind you of something?
- What smells remind you of something happy and positive?
- What smells remind you of something negative?
- What smells do you like and dislike?
- Do you like classical music?
- Why do you think young people avoid places where they play classical music?
- Some people say that playing classical music to get rid of groups of young people simply moves the problem to another place. What do you think?
- What do you think of the beatbox stairway? Would you use it just once or every day?
- Should companies try to get their employees to use the stairs instead of the escalators? How could they do this?
- Have you ever sped?
- Have you ever been caught speeding by a speed camera? What happened?
- Why do people ignore the speed limits?
- Do you think that if there were more rumble sticks they would soon lose their novelty?
- Which idea do you dislike/like the most? Why?
The Pink Room
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