Behavioral Insights WASH

A look at the digital Swachhta Pledge design

We focus on the Swachhta Pledge related to boosting cleanliness and hygiene linked to WASH as a Micro-case to delve on user experience and behavioral inputs to its design.

Micro case

By Nega Negi, M.Sc. student in cognitive science at IIT Delhi

Supervised by Dr. Sumitava Mukherjee

With the increasing appetite for digital content among people, there is a golden opportunity to drive citizen behavior in line with national goals of development or sustainability. Digital campaigns by governments have picked up. A more interesting case in point is the idea of taking a pledge toward a better India. A dedicated portal has been set up to harness the psychology of pledge-taking that runs deep in the Indian culture and has been engrained in society across generations with the idea being it would motivate people to move in needed positive directions.

The digital pledge platform hosts a number of online pledges that can be taken at an individual as well as mass level. The stats below show some of the social issues these online pledges are targeting and the number of pledges taken so far.

We focus on the Swachhta Pledge which is related to the goal of increased Hygiene – linked to the development goal related to water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH). One can find that around Dec 2022, 51053 pledges have been taken to keep the nation clean. Swacchta is a Hindi word that means cleanliness and it’s a term that is often used in the context of the Swacch Bharat Abhiyan (Clean India Campaign). This campaign was launched in 2014 by the Government of India with the goal of making India a clean and hygienic country. One way that could motivate people to get involved in this campaign is by taking the Swacchta pledge – aimed to increase public health and hygiene.

The Swachhata Pledge itself is a purported commitment to maintaining cleanliness and hygiene in one’s own surroundings, as well as contributing to the overall cleanliness of the community and the country. It involves taking small but meaningful steps, such as keeping the home and workplace clean, disposing of waste properly, and ensuring that public spaces are clean and litter-free. First, let us see who has been taking the pledge.

Gender distribution

The statistics show that males have taken more pledges than females, which could be attributed to the disparity in the gender ratio in our country, more male internet users of the website, the issue being more relevant or motivating for males, or many other reasons. 

There is a good distribution of age among young and old participants which might be an indicator current works force employed in institutions and schools.


Coming to the state-wise participant distribution, we see Delhi is leading the states, followed by Uttar Pradesh which might indicate the dominance of digital media in the national capital.


The psychology behind the Swachhata Pledge is rooted in the concept of social norms, which are the unwritten rules and expectations that govern behavior in a particular group or society. Research has shown that people are strongly influenced by social norms, and are more likely to engage in a particular behavior if they perceive that it is the norm or expected behavior in their community.

In the context of the Swachhata Pledge, the idea is that by taking the pledge and committing to cleanliness and hygiene, individuals will become more aware of the importance of these values and will be more likely to adopt them as a personal norm. This in turn can lead to a positive cycle of behavior change, as people who take the pledge may inspire others around them to do the same, further strengthening the norm of cleanliness in the community.

In addition to social norms, the Swachhata Pledge may also be influenced by other psychological factors, such as motivation, attitudes, and beliefs. For example, people may be more likely to take the pledge if they are motivated by a desire to improve their own health or the health of their community, or if they have positive attitudes towards cleanliness and hygiene.

Overall, the psychology behind the Swachhata Pledge highlights the important role that social norms and other psychological factors play in shaping behavior and promoting positive change in communities. By taking the pledge and committing to cleanliness and hygiene, individuals can contribute to creating a cleaner and healthier environment for themselves and those around them.

One such tweet even showed the pledge written over the school wall which could act as a daily nudge for both teachers and students together.

Source: twitter feed

 Taking a digital Swachhata Pledge can help in several ways behaviorally:

  1. Awareness and education: By taking a digital Swachhata Pledge, individuals can learn about the importance of cleanliness and hygiene and the role they can play in promoting these values in their own surroundings and in their community. This can increase awareness and understanding of the issue and help individuals develop good habits and behaviors around cleanliness and hygiene.
  1. Convenience: Taking a digital Swachhata Pledge is often more convenient than traditional methods of taking the pledge, as it can be done online or through a mobile app. This makes it easier for individuals to take the pledge and share it with others.
  1. Social media sharing: Taking a digital Swachhata Pledge often involves sharing the pledge on social media, which can help to spread the message and promote the campaign to a wider audience. This can encourage more people to take the pledge and contribute to the overall goal of improving cleanliness and hygiene in the community.
  1. Tracking and accountability: Some digital Swachhata Pledge platforms may also provide tools for tracking and reporting on progress toward achieving the goals of the pledge. This can help individuals stay accountable and motivated to follow through on their commitments to cleanliness and hygiene.

Given the importance of the Swachhata Pledge, a Decision Lab Micro case was done for studying user experience and usability features by building on insights from psychology and cognitive science.

We performed an eye-tracking study followed by qualitative interviews on the current Swacchta pledge and got some insights that we will further use to redesign the pledge experience. Eye trackers enable us to track eye fixations which is a proxy measure of attention and information processing.

We used a static text version of the Swachhata Pledge that is being used by hundreds of organizations worldwide to figure out key hotspots of attention or keywords that people fixate their eyes on.

The following heat map generated using a Tobii Nano eye tracker shows the distribution of readers’ eye fixations (locations where one looked while reading) on the pledge content.

One can clearly see that the start of the pledge (along with the area having the words Mahatma Gandhi) and the last part of the pledge had maximum fixations.



  1. We observe the common F-shaped reading pattern – people read the top, then come to the middle, read a bit more and then scroll down: in the pattern of an F.
  2. Specific attentional hotshpots are at the very start and at some key words that are catch items.
  3. A significant deliberation at the point of commitment at the end where one is proceeding towards pledging in action and spirit.

It thus achieves some aspects of the goal, but most of the text is ignored and hence might not be remembered or even processed.

Hence, we conducted a user experience study on the portal dedicated to the digital Swachhata Pledge on

Here are some apparent design improvements

  1. Even before the actual pledge was displayed there was already friction in the user experience. The website asks for personal contact details from the user, which users are not very comfortable sharing. That upfront friction might have influenced how they further interacted with the pledge. 
  1. The pledge text was not displayed all at once, but rather in an animated line-by-line display. The speed at which each line was displayed was quite fast and the users were having trouble matching their reading pace with the pace of the displayed text animation. Some users reported this distracted them further when they were trying to read.
  2. There were no visuals accompanying the pledge. Users reported that they would have rather liked it better with visuals.
  3. The pledge display animation lasts for approximately 40 seconds, which means the user’s attention span has to be at least 40 seconds to be interested in the pledge. Further eye
    tracking data analysis needs to be done, to understand if the user’s attention span was even deployed during the entire duration of the pledge.
  4. Some of the users pointed out that the pledge in itself felt like a forced formality to them and that it didn’t really convince them to go back home and inform other people about the pledge, or cleanliness in general. 

These pointers from users can help us better design the pledge and give us the opportunity to nudge a large population toward a better society.

Motivated by UN World Sustainable Development Goal 6
Motivated by UN World Sustainable Development Goal 3