For example, psychologist Robert Cialdini did an experiment a few years ago to get people to be more respectful of public parks. He found that negative messages actually made people more likely to take items from the park (which they weren't supposed to do). 
Interestingly, the most effective way to change people's behavior was to leverage peer pressure, making them feel like everyone around them was already performing the desired action. E.g. "98% of hikers don't remove rocks; please don't be the 2%"
I'm not saying these two cases are identical, but to me what makes the U.K. signs so effective is that they suggest, in a subtle way, "Hey, you should have a good time because everyone else is enjoying themselves."
Then again I'm an elitist prick, so perhaps this wouldn't have the desired effect on the median user.
If you put up something that looks like an authority that will try and punish you if you disobey then you look brave and smart by disobeying it and getting away with it.
> When the unit advised the HMRC to change the wording on income tax letters, for example, it resulted in an extra £200million being collected on time. Another experiment with the British Courts Service used personalised text messages to remind people to pay their fines on time. The result? Bailiff interventions were reduced by 150,000, saving around £30million.
Historically it was a friendly, we're-all-in-this-together sort of email sharing information about what helps the recycling process go most smoothly, maximizes taxpayer return, etc. Recently they had a change of responsible parties, and now the new emails are full of stark, accusatory statements of absolutes and rules -- the classic underlined/bold/italic "DO NOT" type list of exclusions.
It is absolutely remarkable the effect this has. Suddenly we're not all in this together, but it's factions working against each other. I and my fellow taxpayers are now suddenly trouble in someone's life.
I've always been against hostile communications where they aren't necessary, but this has absolutely opened my eyes to how much of an impact this sort of adversarial approach can have. It's purely an anecdotal datapoint, but it really struck me.
*edit: sorry for the comparison to dogs (I have some background in animal training); but I hope at least the connection of corporate policy to empirical behavioral science and psychology isn't the cause of the downvoting... anyway if you're interested, a great book is "Don't Shoot the Dog" by Karen Pryor. And on the business side, W. Edwards Deming's seminal work "Out of the Crisis." Essentially both show a proven way of dealing with any living thing that's based on positive behavior and proven statistical methods and science rather than outdated and misguided beliefs about punishment and motivation that are now known to be less effective in the long term. Simple psychology, statistics, and science.
I'm not sure if you can consider a sign reinforcement though, because it is usually presented before the desired or undesired behavior occurs....
I actually think about positive wording versus negative wording to be a prime example of punishment versus reinforcement; with negative wording the interpretation (mine anyway, without much analysis) is a pre-emptive punishment directed directly at me for an undesired behavior that is an option, whereas a positively worded sign is pre-emptive positive reinforcement for good behavior that I might consider. I get rewarded/positively reinforced for good thought versus punished for bad thoughts, and it turns out the punishment (and side-effects thereof) applies whether or not I actually had the thoughts or not (citation needed, etc.). Really interesting to think about.
The most success we've had has been through "Positive Behavior Intervention" ( http://www.pbis.org/ ). The basic philosophy is to identify the value someone gets out of their negative behavior, set positive expectations for behaviors that provide the same value, and then provide immediate positive feedback whenever you see the positive behavior.
The adversarial approach, by comparison, tended to lead to escalating problems. It made me his enemy instead of his ally and advocate.
It's a lot like the phenomenon where if you include and and twice in a row, you'll likely not realize the typo.
Isn't the brain a wonderful and scary thing.
it was only after going through all the others that i got it. seems my brain is conditioned that in the presence of 'keep' and 'grass' i should remain off.
issue when you put them on line breaks.
Couldn't you just read the whole sign properly on the first try? Why did you glance over the rest of it? I think that's your fault - and our society these days - and not the fault of the signs, which were cute and funny.
Since this is a result of society, why are you getting all blamey?
The thing is that I understand why someone would glance over something twice before reading it at last. And I'm not going to shoot people who do this. But I still don't think that's a good thing to do, a good behavioral pattern.
In this example, seriously, why didn't you read the sign on the first try? Probably because, as you quoted, you were expecting the sign to be boring shit, not worth reading. But hey, you were told that it is not shit beforehand! So, to have trouble with reading it, you must have: a) not believed that the signs are legitimate content; or b) struggled and failed against your reflexive rejection of the signs as garbage.
The latter option is more probable, I think. You tried to overcome your conditioning and pattern-matching defaults, and finally you succeeded. But you could succeed earlier, had you exercised! You could try to play with optical illusions or do puzzles, or something like this. And after a while you would have no problem at all with recognising the signs in this article.
What I wanted to say in my previous posts is that this lack of ability to ignore reflexes, see and (sometimes try to) understand is a very good thing to develop for yourself, and that unfortunately people are less and less aware that this is the case (scary!), because what they come in contact with is constantly getting larger, cruder and more obvious.
I didn't find the original source when I submitted it to HN. Unfortunately, it is too late now to edit my submission for the improved link.
I can't blame him--I like to see things as-intended. No trash in the woods, no modern equipment at historical sites, etc.
Same with "KEEP MOBILE PHONE".
The grammar nerd in me is grinding his teeth.
2. Putting both “also” and “too” in the second clause is redundant.
Take a break from the dull monotony of 140 characters, please!
What's nice about the NT is that they're not an in-you-face political campaign group, they just go about conservation on a daily basis.
I hope this doesn't spread.
This idea is delightful.
This is a work of art, at most. Not an example of real world usability.
The sites that the National Trust maintains are "general touristic places". It's the UK's largest membership organization, with a membership of 3.7 million people in 2010. It owns over 200 historic houses. It owns more than 630,000 acres, nearly 1.5% of the entire land mass of England, Wales, and Northern Ireland, and owns or protects roughly 20% of the coastline.
One of its properties -- just one, and remember that it owns over 200 houses and 630,000 acres of land -- had nearly 440,000 visitors in its 2009-10 fiscal year.
National Trust properties are most definitely "general touristic places" at which these signs are working.
Considering how popular the campaign has been online, I'd say it's an outstanding idea.
Now think of a not-so-educated 60 year old tourist going to see a nice park on his vacation.
It's a campaign to convince people like me, a National Trust member who's half the age of the person in your example, that the National Trust attractions aren't all stuffy and boring and the NT wants you to actually explore and enjoy them.
I still think it's not a good idea, and the fact that it's a likable idea doesn't fix that for me.
Whereas a "RESERVED for fun and games" sign can easily confuse someone who understands the first word (perhaps they've seen it on other English signs before) but not "fun" nor "games", and they'll be misled into thinking they're not allowed to go into that area.
MVORUW the DUCKS