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ISSUE – Apr. 3 | How Uber Uses Psychological Tricks to Push Its Drivers’ Buttons

The company has undertaken an extraordinary experiment in behavioral science to subtly entice an independent work force to maximize its growth.

The secretive ride-hailing giant Uber rarely discusses internal matters in public. But in March, facing crises on multiple fronts, top officials convened a call for reporters to insist that Uber was changing its culture and would no longer tolerate “brilliant jerks.” Notably, the company also announced that it would fix its troubled relationship with drivers, who have complained for years about falling pay and arbitrary treatment. “We’ve underinvested in the driver experience,” a senior official said. “We are now re-examining everything we do in order to rebuild that love.”

And yet even as Uber talks up its determination to treat drivers more humanely, it is engaged in an extraordinary behind-the-scenes experiment in behavioral science to manipulate them in the service of its corporate growth — an effort whose dimensions became evident in interviews with several dozen current and former Uber officials, drivers and social scientists, as well as a review of behavioral research. [ NY Times ]

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