The Psychological Tools Uber Uses on Rideshare Drivers

The internet is a two-dimensional ocular world, which means it is purely eye-brain effective. This has led many companies to develop different and varied techniques to make users addicted to online activity. The psychology of color, design, and content are the most basic forms that are used when developing web apps. Different countries and different cultures view their screens from different perspectives. The second tier of psychological incentive tools is promotional offerings that are designed to make the viewer desire that offering. These offerings can come in many forms, and this article will discuss what tools and methods Uber use to prompt their drivers to work harder and more diligently. NLP is a classic approach to how language is used to direct other peoples actions and is a major tool in marketing and promotional work.


To maintain a non-employer employee relationship, Uber has to employ certain contextual restraints. These restraints must be able to prompt the driver into performing certain actions without actually telling them what to do. This means that Uber must employ language management skills to circumvent legal restraints. These skills include :

Overloading conscious attention, this means using ambiguous language to make the receiver try to work out what is being said, and Indirect communication. This uses even more vague language with metaphors to enable the user to direct the receiver.

These language systems are deployed via the Uber app and include an indirect and direct validatory system, in fact, Uber uses its customers directly as a means to direct their drivers indirectly. Got it?

If you don't understand, here is what we mean:

Key Performance Indicators (KPI's)

KPI's is a process by which Uber provides a driving incentive that is a passenger and operational based. (Key Performance Indicators) KPI's are set to allow for measurement of success. For instance, the number of complements a driver gets within a set period. This is a complement KPI. The number of ride requests that were canceled is a KPI. There are many KPI's and they are all built into the system and all indirect.

Back to the customers, Uber app allows passengers to leave complements and also see previous passengers comments. The comments are graded using a language algorithm to search for good and bad indicators. Also, the more complements a driver gets, the more likely they are to find a new ride and usually their rating goes up, which is obviously a KPI.

While you might not be impressed by your comments and compliments, they are important because you can learn from the passenger's comments what you were perceived as by them and not what you think you were, as perceived by yourself.

As you can see, this is already working as a psychological tool to get you to perform self-imaging and performance criticism.

Other KPI's include how fast a driver reacts between periods1, 2 and 3. The time it takes to reach a new ride is measured and acts as a rating indicator. This is an obvious KPI. The amount of time it takes to drive your passenger to their destination safely. The use of GPS and road initiative, are also KPI's. Tips are a great KPI, they are a purely personal KPI that provides an immediate indication as to how happy the passenger was with the driver unless the passenger is a Scrooge, and then this KPI is moot.

Uber KPI's are passenger derivatives; they are the way the company can measure how good a performance and how good a driver is in reality. By linking customer satisfaction to a rating system and allowing everyone to see the drivers rating, creates an internal competition between the driver and his image. Customer satisfaction KPI's and ratings are psychological boosters for the ego.


Uber uses specific syntax to create associations with income and loss. For instance; Surge is a word used to describe an uptake of ride requests in one area in one instance. The surge itself is not an incentive, the extra added money, the surge bonus is the incentive and this is what makes the word Surge so strong.

The same for the guarantee, prime time, hot-spot, airport, and lull. Each keyword is associated with either a positive result such as an added income or a negative result such as no income or even de-activation.

Uber syntax is a major branding operation using Pavlovian techniques.

Pavlovian Incentives

What does the word surge do to you? For an Uber driver, it means more money. Surge is a word that has been ingrained to mean more money and creates an immediate desire or attachment.

How are these words turned into a Pavlovian incentive, quite simply, the driver is offered a financial incentive which strengthens the word association? A surge is transformed into a wholly positive activity, even when surges can be frustrating in real life.

Guarantees are another Pavlovian response word, the minute you see the word guarantee you immediately associate extra driving with income. The cash benefits generated from these words are how Uber directs their drivers to perform faster, better and longer hours without actually directing them to drive.

Drivers start to learn all the different ways to find more passengers, such as alternative routes to areas not usually patrolled by drivers, late nights early mornings. Drivers start to find ways to work unusual hours they would normally never consider. This is final conditioning; it means Uber has made the driver into a conscientious productive agent.


What Uber does is also done by most agent-oriented companies, their approach is highly refined, and most drivers accept these incentives because they increase their income. The negative incentives such as de-activation and lower ratings are all part of the process; people prefer to feel good than bad, so with a double-edged incentive system, you find more and more drivers trying to increase their income while making positive actions to fend off possible negatives. (Such as driving safely).