Human Behavior Modification and Uber Employs it on Rideshare Drivers

Uber needs to perform some complex marketing techniques to get more and more customers; these techniques use various psychological tools to make people desire the use of Uber ride-sharing over other forms of ground transport. The same goes for Uber drivers; they are not employees of Uber, they are the face of Ube. Rideshare drivers are Uber, and as such need to be conditioned to perform the way Ubers executive envision their companies performance.

One of the many known ways to create a conditioned environment is by following Pavlov's experiments, in this case creating positive incentives that will eventually be ingrained into the driver's psyche and will become second nature to their actions. Also, by introducing some negative impact actions, Uber strengthens the desire to succeed in the positive incentives, thereby doubling the hold they have on the drivers sub-conscious.

Here are a few of the techniques and methods employed by Uber to bring about driver education and compliance.

Use of language

Uber has to use language in a way that will ensure the driver retains their identity as well as legal standing as an independent contractor. In doing so, they have to use ambiguous language in many ways to point their drivers in the direction that Uber wants without actually telling them directly what to do. Ambiguity is part of NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming) and while many claims it is not a real science, more adhere to its capabilities and many parts of NLP are employed in marketing and PR programs.

Indirect communication is an art form; the ability to use metaphors, a vague language directing the driver on a daily basis, this is seen in such instances as "directional filtering" which is a nice way of saying, pick up passengers on the way to your work stop. Another one is Guaranteed income boosters, a fine way to say, work harder, and we will pay you more.

These key phrases are not common knowledge and if you were to say out loud to a room of people, "Can anyone help me with my "surge," you will see a few faces turn and run to their cars to get the surge before it settles down.

A quick look at KPI's (Key Performance Indicators)

Human behavior modification is a process that requires defined activities set within a defined time limit. This way performance can be measured; this is called Key Performance Indicators or KPI's for short.

KPI's can be set for just about any instance in any activity. It's a major part of assessment management process. Ubers KPI's are set for the various periods in rideshare when "period 1" is too long; the KPI is lower. Whereas, the quicker "periods 2 and 3" are performed, the higher the KPI's.

KPI's are also ascertained from third-party inputs such as complements and ratings. The ratings are based on KPI's as well; a passenger will rate the driver and the car based on the perception of cleanliness, sociability, comfort, speed, safety and more.A direct KPI for the driver is how much the customer tipped, but this is also a dependant on passenger's habit to pay tips and not necessarily a direct result of good service.

A hidden KPI is when an enforcement principle is in place; enforcement principles are ways of conditioning the driver to react and perform in a specific way. A hidden KPI is how that performance is rated when activated. Such instances occur when directional filtering is activated, when surges, hot spots, and guaranteed boosts are activated. The driver's performance is rated by a hidden KPI, and a picture of how the driver reacts is built. A mass KPI is also read this way, a sort of herd movement and reaction KPI noting how many drivers in different areas react to certain stimuli.

By watching, studying, analyzing and implementing upgrades, Uber can change how activities are induced and introduce new activities.

Uber also uses KPI's on passengers; these are passenger ratings as well as promotions and pre-quotes that demand a passenger input a destination.


Uber specifically names each activity in a way that will induce a conditioned reaction. Such naming includes "surge" or "Hotspot" or "Directional Filter." When using these words to a ride-share driver, they automatically induce a reaction. These are activity reactions; the driver immediately seeks a way to perform or activate the Uber app to reach satisfaction. Satisfaction is not just reaching the end product, the profit, but the actual performance of the activity induced by the command instance.

Pavlovs Drivers

Let's look at this conditioning in depth. Pavlov was a Russian Psychiatrist that did research on animals and found that they could be conditioned to react in certain ways when a positive incentive was introduced in association with a specific action. In Pavlov's experiment a dog was offered food, every tie ti reacted a certain way to a particular sound. Eventually, whenever the sound was heard, the dog responded even when food was not served. This is called incentive conditioning and works with humans too.

As mentioned above, when you suggest to an Uber driver the word "surge" what does it mean to the driver and what urge does the driver get when hearing it? The word "surge" induces a vision of a lot of passengers waiting to get taken, and a bonus of up to 100% is offered for taking them. A driver immediately associates increased income to eth word "surge, " and immediately thinks about driving to the surge area. The only consideration that stops the driver from dashing off is an experience. The younger drivers will rush off to a surge even if it is half an hour away. An experienced driver will assess how long it will take to get to the surge and reconsider driving to it if it is too far since the experienced driver knows that by the time he gets there the surge will be over.

So we have a KPI for surges that are varied based on driver experience. It also proves negative conditioning, where a word can be associated with a negative reaction instead of a positive one. This is called double-edged conditioning and creates a perfect learning pattern for Uber to condition its drivers to react with intelligence, but conditioned reactions are increasing productivity. An extremely different incentive is the directional filter, which utilizes some KPI's as well as manages the negative ones, making this app feature a powerful tool.