Saturday, December 31, 2011

How to nudge your bartender to give you a bigger drink

By Katrine Lund Skov & Pelle Guldborg Hansen

Low on cash?
At the end of the month, when the money is low, we often find ourselves Friday night at a bar stuck with the problem of maximizing fun (read: alcohol) at the lowest cost. To many this means ordering cheap brands, but here’s how to nudge your bartender to fill the glass more than he intends so you can stick with the good stuff.


In the book Mindless Eating by Brian Wansink, Wansink explains how the shape of glasses has an effect on just how much people pour into them. As it turns out, people pour 20 to 30% more fluid into a glass when it is short and wide rather than tall and slender.

If you have problems believing this, then you might want to read up on Wansink’s study.

In this Wansink asked 45 bartenders pour up 40-ml. of liquor into various types of glasses. While some of the bartenders were men, some women, some young, some old, some working at expensive restaurants serving Dom Pérignon, others working at places usually serving tequila shots, they all had at least 5 years of experience. While the bartenders didn’t have much of a problem when the glasses were tall and slender, none of them were able to pour the right amount of liquor into glasses when these were short and wide. Instead, they poured 37% too much up.

Thus, if you want to maximize the amount of liquor relative to cost, please ask your bartender to give you a wider, though shorter glass, instead of the regular tall and slender one. You might just end up with a bigger drink which ultimately will allow you to stick to the good stuff.

Low on calories?
Fortunately, this nudge can also be used the other way around. When serving expensive or high calorie drinks for yourself or for your dinner guests, give them tall and slender glasses. For water, use the short glasses.

How come a simple design can fool us?
If you take a look at the figure to the right, which line do you find longer?

The vertical one!

Nonetheless, this is not the case. Both lines have the exact same length. However, we automatically find the vertical line longer due to a visual illusion. This is also what happens when we, or even the experienced bartenders, are pouring up liquor. The tall and slender glasses appear smaller, than the low and wide glasses, why you can nudge a bartender, your guests or even yourself to drink more or less all depending upon your intentions.

P.s. One of us, Pelle, used to be a bartender for many years. He also makes the mistake. Still, as you probably have noticed most regular restaurants have adopted the standard counter nudge of using measuring cups and like instruments. More expensive restaurants, however, are still usually too proud to use such rude instruments for their fine liquors.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

How to Nudge your Xmas dinner even better

By Katrine Lund Skov & Pelle Guldborg Hansen

Recently we wrote about how the size of your plate affects how much you eat. But at Christmas people take eating a step further. In Denmark alone 50 – 100 people end up hospitalized because they eat too much.

In this post we continue in the food & Christmas section, and let you know, how to nudge your family to love the Xmas dinner even more – after all you have prepared this for several hours, or perhaps even days!

First of all you can put a lot of salt sugar and fats in the food. Our ancestors ate salt to prevent dehydration, fat helped them to fill up their calorie reserves for winter seasons and sugar helped them know the difference between sweet eatable berries, and sour poisonous berries (Wansink 2008:188). This has given humans an insatiable craving for these ingredients, which you can take advantage of. Though, if you want your family members to be able to walk around the Christmas tree you probably shouldn’t.

Confirmation bias at the X-mas dinner
Wansink's bestselling book
Instead use our plan B: Just tell them how delicious it’s going to be. Let them know it’s home cooked. How you have used special recipes. How creamy, juicy and delicious you have prepared it to be - use details to tell them exactly just how tasty your home cooked Christmas dinner will be.

At least this is what American nutrition professor Brian Wansink’s (1960) suggest as to how to turn the confirmation bias to our advantage: If we believe that the food we are about to eat will taste good, our taste buds can be preprogrammed.

To examine just how effective the confirmation bias is, Wansink sat up a test where 32 persons had to test the taste of a new strawberry yoghurt flavor. Wansink didn’t want the appearance of the yoghurt to have any influence on how well they liked it, why they ate it in a dark lab. 19 contestants told that it had a great strawberry taste, and one contestant even said it was her new favorite. There was just one twist to the test – it was not strawberry yoghurt, it was chocolate yoghurt. Just by telling the contestants it was strawberry yoghurt, their taste buds got preprogrammed and thereby told them so. Restaurants have used the trick of our confirmation bias for several years. Wansink calls this the magic of the menu card. Similarly, you can preprogram your guests to enjoy your Christmas dinner even more than they probably already would have merely by telling how delicious it is.

Merry X-mas from the iNudgeYou-team!

PS. Make the table decoration beautiful. Just by having a great mood setting atmosphere your family members will enjoy the whole arrangement even better, which also will effect their appreciation of the dinner.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Nudge - By Definition

By Pelle Guldborg Hansen & Andreas Maaløe Jespersen

Confusing confusion

"The definition of nudge is vague and more work should be done on clarifying this before we can consider..." 

"Nudging is basically about controlling incentives - penalties and rewards..."

These are just some of the remarks we are often confronted with - even by Academics, including people who sit on boards and committees who's function is to hand out money and thus invest and direct future research.

What is most disturbing about this, isn't that these remarks are plain wrong. Rather, it's that they seem to result from people confusing their own confusion with regard to some simple facts and concepts that may quite easily be checked.

Nudge - by definition
On page 6 in both the US and UK version of Thaler & Sunstein's Nudge: Improving Decisions about Health, Wealth & Happiness (2008) it is written that:  
A nudge, as we will use the term, is any aspect of the choice architecture that alters people’s behavior in a predictable way without forbidding any options or significantly changing their economic incentives. To count as a mere nudge, the intervention must be easy and cheap to avoid.
Now superficially, this may seem as a straight-forward definition liable for vagueness. However, what one has to remember, that this definition is coined against the background of behavioral economics. 

If you don't have the time or patience to sit down and work through the literature in this field, this is the rule of thumb: any intervention that would influence an unbounded, unrestricted rational agent, is not a nudge. Hence, a nudge does not invoke incentives - positive or negative.

At a more abstract level, a direct consequence of this is that 'a nudge' is defined as effecting a deviation from mathematically well-defined baseline models. Hence, saying that the definition of nudge is vague is straight-forwardly wrong.

A problem with the original definition   
However, the attentive reader will by now have discovered a flaw in Thaler & Sunstein's original definition (we think it is an unfortunate simplification). 

The payoff-functions of rational agents are affected by other things than mere economic variables. For instance, the expectation of cake, electric shock or social ostracism. Hence, restricting the definition to economic incentives seems wrong. For this reason we usually adopt the definition provided by Hausman & Welch (2010):
Nudges are ways of influencing choice without limiting the choice set or making alternatives appreciably more costly in terms of time, trouble, social sanctions, and so forth. They are called for because of flaws in individual decision-making, and they work by making use of those flaws. 
(Hausman & Welch 2010:126)
God and evil nudges
However, while Thaler & Sunstein as well as Hausman & Welch extends the notion of 'a nudge' to cover any attempt of influencing behavior - well- or ill-intended (in fact, Thaler & Sunstein's notion is even broader) - we suggest limiting the notion to only well-intended for several important conceptual reasons of conistency.*

Nudge - US paperback version 

Nudge US hardcover version
Nudge UK paperback version

This post draws on points from a forthcoming journal article of ours. Thus, if you intend to cite or use points from the above, please contact us.  

Monday, December 19, 2011

Nudge yourself to a healthier life: plate size

By Pelle Guldborg Hansen

This is a classic. Still, we thought that X-mas might just be the right occasion to write about Wansink's famous study of the effect that your plate's size has on your intake of calories.

Mindless eating
Brian Wansink is professor in consumer behavior and nutritional science. However, to most people outside of academia he is perhaps best known as the author of Mindless Eating: Why we eat more than we think (2006).

The multiple studies of food psychology and behavior reported by Wansink in Mindless eating carries a simple message: most of our eating behavior occurs through non-conscious processes and is thus also affected by cues, feats, and factors that we do not know about. In the language of Kahneman: most of our eating behavior is controlled by System 1.

Plate size
One of the features that affect how much we eat and hence also how many calories we consume is plate size. In a study carried out by Wansink and his team it was shown that moving from a 12-inch dinner plate to a 10-inch dinner plate leads people to serve and eat 22% less!*

Obviously, plate size shouldn't have any effect on an unconstrained and hyper-rational person. Such a person would have a plan as to how much to eat and know exactly how to carry this plan out to perfection.

Such ideal behavior is by no means unattainable. Heck, I once had great success monitoring my calorie intake through an electronic food diary called Madlog. The only problem was that my everyday life didn't allow be to give that much attention to closely monitor my intake. Weighing and measuring everything that I was eating throughout the day while doing my job and enjoying myself with my family turned out to be impossible. It just required too much effort and attention from system 2.

Consequently, as so many others, I need to find some simple and smart ways and heuristics to nudge myself to a healthier lifestyle... and when we can't manage to monitor the details of everything we eat, plate size does matter.

Why plate size matters
There are several causes to why the size of your plate matters. For one, the size of your plate effects the visual representation and following evaluation of how much food is on your plate.  

Of course, while this may cause you to put more food on your plate, it isn't sufficient for making you eat more. Unfortunately, your brain takes care of that - often even if you think about.

For one, food on a plate in front of you acts as a multi-level sensory cue for your brain to activate eating behavior and continue eating until you reach your physical limit. Behind this behavior lies the fact, that we didn't evolve at McDonalds, but in environments where scarcity of food was the fundamental human condition. Perhaps that explains why my Grand mom always says "eat while you can".   

Second, it takes a while before your stomach gets around sending that signal to your brain, that you're full. Some say that it takes as much as 15 minutes - and those 15 minutes can become very dangerous for your health.

Finally, there are social norms associated with leaving food on your plate. These might in turn be associated with norms of masculinity, politeness and norms of sustainability - it's masculine to eat much, it's not polite to leave food on the plate when you're a guest and it's just plain wrong to throw out food. All of these values enforce the norm of finishing your plate - especially when you think about it.

Do yourself a favor - nudge thyself
Now there is little chance that your brain or stomach will change. Further, the values coordinated through social norms may be to our liking and thus a matter of preference that it is not our job to judge or influence.

But fortunately, the size of our plates is under your control and thus you can nudge yourself. By simply finding some smaller plates you can affect the amount of food you eat. Also, you may do your guest a favor at the X-mas dinner - after all, it's unfortunate to kill your guests slowly by having norms of masculinity, politeness and sustainability finish them off.

Other blog entries on food and health:
How to grow your own nudge
Why nudging is better than the fat tax and other tools of the trade
A Nudge to walk around the Earth

Read more: 
Wansink, Brian (2006) Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think. Bantam Books.

* "The Perils of Plate Size: Waist, Waste, and Wallet (2008), Brian Wansink and Koert van Ittersum, Journal of Marketing (the paper is not yet published, but it may be downloaded here). 

Friday, December 16, 2011

Nudging employees' behaviours

See the video here
By Pelle Guldborg Hansen

I just found this on Youtube and thought I would share it with all of you. The original content description is as follows:  

"On 23rd November 2011, Prof. Adrian Furnham (UCL) gave a talk to the guests of Mountainview Learning on how the Nudge theory can be used by HR professionals to increase employee motivation and engagement.

In the first part of this talk, Prof. Furnham discusses why Nudge is such an attractive concept and begins to explain how human decision-making process works."

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Nudge in business: mission impossible or win-win?

By Andreas Maaløe Jespersen & Pelle Guldborg Hansen

The nudge-doctrine is primarily developed as a strategy for creating smarter public solutions in health, economy and citizenship. But as the idea has evolved and disseminated, private companies and non-profit organizations have shown a keen interest in adopting nudge-like strategies as well. 

Credit to Xedos4
Businesses in the private market have a long history of using behavioral strategies when engaging with their customers, and they definitely have a lead on the public institutions when it comes to knowledge about their customers behavior and how to affect it. 

In the private market this has traditionally been referred to as marketing strategies, and it covers everything from fancy "buy one get one for free" offers to the supermarket's space-management that always makes us buy more than we thought we needed. 

At just a quick glance marketing and nudge could easily be confused as being the same thing - they both shape behavior by adjusting the context in which we choose or our perception thereof, and they both aim at actual behavior change rather than just information change. But in fact, there is especially one key factor that separates nudging from marketing, and prompts the question “is nudge really a viable strategy for businesses?” 

The key to unlocking the answer is found in the observation that in traditional marketing, there is no real need for the concept 'nudge'.

This crucial element for this difference is that a nudge by definition aims at making people better of: according to their own reflected judgment. This means, that when we nudge people, we have to make certain that we nudge them in a direction they themselves would have taken if they had thought things through and following had unlimited energy to constantly monitor their preferences, without restricting those who reach different conclusions than then one nudged for. 

Credit to Xedos4
Marketing usually aims at increasing profits, and usually does this without considering what people would actually prefer if given the time to think things through. As a result increasing profits often make people worse off according to their own judgment. No one thinks that leaving a supermarket having spend 30 pct more than they initially planned actually leaves better them off (especially not when the 30 pct is spend on items that will also ruin their desire to loose weight), and who is really satisfied by watching money disappear every month for a fitness subscription they no longer use?

Of course, when it has already happened, we are rarely willing as consumers to admit our own failure, and to resolve the resulting cognitive dissonance we come up with reasons that rationalize our actions to save our self-image as rational and responsible decision makers.  

The difference between nudge and marketing comes down to which end we aim to satisfy - the customer's or the business? Unsurprisingly these elements are not as incompatible as they initially seem - take a company like Apple - who have made a hefty profit of supplying their customers with gadgets that are user friendly and intuitive, or a company like Amazon how have revolutionized customer service from something that used to be painful and slow to a pleasant hassle free process.

In fact, a hall-mark of paying proper attention to the nudge-doctrine and getting acquainted with insights from behavioral economics, cognitive psychology and marketing is that it open up new alleys for identifying win-win strategies in the interaction between marketing and consumer welfare. Why not sell more mineral water instead of more softdrinks? And why not sell more whole wheat bread instead of bad white toast bread?   

If businesses are serious about nudge - we hope that the future will bring supermarkets that make you healthier by default, fitness subscriptions that automatically goes on time-out when you're not using them and plane tickets that actually state the full costs before you buy them - only by then can the market truly be said to be nudgers.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Nudge: when knowledge becomes a Democratic challenges

By Pelle Guldborg Hansen & Andreas Maaløe Jespersen

Some days ago we were asked by the leading Danish forum for communication professionals to write something up about the nudge-doctrine. You may find the result HERE.

While it's in Danish, Google translate shoudl be able to do the job.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

NudgeNews, December, 2011

By Pelle Guldborg Hansen

Everyday quite a few articles, blogs and papers on Nudge and related issues are made available online. NudgeNews is our way of trying to facilitate a better understanding of nudging by giving you access and an overview.

Dec. 14, 2011

Nudge-initiative to nudge consumers toward sustainable practices

(consumer, sustainability, marketing)

Akshay R. Rao at the Carlsson School of Management, University of Minnesota is reported to have started up an initiative or consortium involving goverment agencies as well as companies aimed at boosting research in earth-friendly behavior and products:
Initiative to nudge consumers toward sustainable practices

Suggestion that UK government should counter market's use of behavioral economics with a ban

(consumer, alcohol consumption, marketing)

One of the issues that keeps coming up, is how to counter the industry's use of behavioral economics, especially when it leaves to severely harmful behavior. In this piece from The Telegraph Andrew M. Brown provides a balanced and sound argument for why we should consider to counter use of insights from behavioral economics by banning multi-buy deals in relation to alcohol consumption:  
Boozy Britain: your very good health?

Dec. 12, 2011

UK to nudge job creation
(work, incentive schemes)

Ed Davey, employment relations minister in the UK, has announced a plan for re-arranging incentives for employment providers that will have them pay more attention to whether they provide a sustainable job opportunity. Read more about it in the following two links:
A small job can boost job creation says Davey
'Nudge in the right direction' helpful for job creation  
Dec. 4, 2011

Nudging for healthier hospital cafeterias
(health, cafeterias, food)

A new study evaluates cafeterias in children's hospitals. Standards on how to present food and other nudges could be part of such evaluations in the future, says Dr. Lenard Lesser, a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation clinical scholar at UCLA's medical school and the lead author of the study.
UCLA study on healthy food at children's hospitals

Dec. 2, 2011

Smarter lunch rooms
(health, cafeterias, food) reports on a programme called "smarter lunch rooms" working in collaboration with Cornell. The article features little documentation, but some great ideas and illustrations of how one works with nudging healthier food choices in cafeterias and lunch rooms.

School lunchrooms strive to get smarter

Dec. 1, 2011

Nudging in the UK 

(nudge politics, problematic cases, car-theft)

A blog update on Marketing about Nudging in the UK by Nicola Clark seemingly based on a talk by Sam Nguyen from the Behavioural Insight Team at Marketing's Trends+ conference.   While there is no direct point in the update, it does feature three pieces of interest: (1) an attempt to get UK consumers to use more money with a nudge that seems samewhat unlikely to succeed; (2) the usual case of a  seemingly problematic case out of reach for the nudge-doctrine; and (3) a very interesting report of a social disclosure nudge in car-theft security.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Nudging traffic: How to save lives in a hurry

By Katrine Lund Skov & Andreas Maaløe

I’m a little late again. Driving a bit too fast, but what the hell, if that’s what it takes to avoid the bosses accusing glance of ‘you’re-late-again’ then it’s worth it right? Speeding just a little can’t be that dangerous anyway. Tomorrow I’ll get out of the door in time. I promise!

Habit and overconfidence on the road
How many of the 2381 persons that got injured or killed in traffic last year reasoned somewhat like the above before they got in their cars? Or the previous year, where that number was 2801. The good news is, that this year the number of accidents and fatalities has gone down by 500, so what happened? To answer that question we must first understand what caused the accidents. In a review from the Danish Road Safety Council, 75% of the interviewed speed offenders said it was due to a lack of attention from their part, because they were in a hurry or the thought that the road conditions invited faster driving.
If anything, our behaviour in traffic is mostly automatic, something we do everyday without thinking, a habit. The potential catastrophic consequences of bad driving are hard to imagine. In addition, it always happen to someone else – right? In behavioral economics this latter bias in judgement is known as the overconfidence effect. When you ask a class of students, usually 90% estimate that they will do better than the average on the final test.
Finally, and the only feedback we get from erroneous driving is when its too late.
Nudging for traffic safety
We can hardly argue that we don’t know the rules of the road, and with automatic behaviour, little feedback and abstract (but deadly) consequences, driving is in need of a nudge, where the trick is to make the drivers behaviour salient with driver feedback signs.
Credit to Jim Parkin
When feedback signs were erected on the Øresund Bridge the amount of drivers that exceeded the 40 km speed limit was cut in half, which significantly lowed the risk of accidents for the staff working there and for drivers themselves. Feedback signs remind us of our behaviour right there and then, which in turn forces the driver out of the automatic behaviour pattern – she can still speed with no economic sanction, but now the speeding becomes a choice instead of habit.

Individual salience is one thing, but perhaps more interesting (from a nudge perspective) is the trafficants desire to drive at the same pace as that of their peers. By informing drivers about other drivers actual speed, a significant impact can be made on how many drivers choose to adjust the speed they are travelling. Most drivers erroneously believe that everyone else is speeding – which in turn makes them speed themselves.
So – driver feedback signs coupled with strategic information about the behaviour of peers seem to be the way forward, and if you’re wondering about if it’s all worth it, just think of the 255 who could still have been alive this year if national speeding had been reduced to the same levels as those on the Øresunds Bridge.

Next post: Nudging traffic safety by visual illusions

Friday, November 25, 2011

Challenge: Happy Birthday nudge!

By Pelle Guldborg Hansen

I don't think that my sister have ever paid serious attention to anything I've said in my life.

Not until last Sunday at my niece's Birthday, that is.

The birthday nudge
My sister works with the Danish Cancer Society - the same organization (but different section) that we are working with through the Danish Nudging Network. Although I've once told her about nudging, I guess it's there that she has picked up some ideas.

Thus, last Sunday at my niece's Birthday party, my sister suddenly makes the announcement at the table that she has made a little nudge-experiment.

What nobody had noticed was that there were two different varieties of Birthday buns served in each their basket: one variety with sugar, one variety without. Ultimately nobody had noticed, and thus the result was that 50% less sugar was eaten, since pick of bread basket was more or less random (my sister switched bread baskets once in a while during the party).

Is it a nudge?
Whether this is a nudge depends on a few decisions. Thaler and Sunstein's definition of a nudge doesn't say explicitly whether adding a choice-option rules out a nudge. Thus one has to go to the background theory of behavioral economics to get it right. According to this, adding an option is a nudge if it influences real world behavior, but leaves the ideal agent of homo economicus unaffected.  

Ultimately, the Birthday buns manage the fundamental requirements. Adding a sugarless variety of buns left the standard singleton-choice of buns with sugar feasible. Also, there were no cost-benefit adjustment attached in any way to the intervention - not even of the social kind, since my sister didn't inform us about the addition of a new choice.

Rational Birthday party challenge
But the decisive question is: would an ideal agent be influenced by the addition of a choice?

Well, on the one hand he wouldn't have any information about the sugarless variety to begin with. That seems to leave a Birthday party of rational agents to end up with eating 50% less sugar given their imperfect information and the assumption that choice of bread basket is made at random.  

But is this the right baseline to compare observed effect with when evaluating whether the intervention ultimately qualifies as a nugde?

I want to pose this as a challenge to you readers out there: is the Birthday Bun Nudge, really a nugde?
I'll provide my answer later on. For now, I leave you with the following clues.

(1) Ideal decision makers have taste-buds just like everyone else, but they also have perfect recall.
(2) At the rational birthday party ideal decision makers have imperfect information, but are also capable of learning.
(3) People did not eat the same number of Birthday buns. Some ate 1, most ate 2 or 3, and a few ate 4.
(4) My sister was willing to answer any question honestly.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Nudging young people to a better economy

Press here to play

By Pelle Guldborg Hansen

This morning I appeared on the national news station TV2news in an interview about how to nudge young people to a better economy.

When I reach my lunch-break I'll write an English recap with references to the survey we're discussing, plus with reference to some of the interesting findings and claims that I mention.

Until then you may enjoy the interview... in Danish.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

NudgeNews Nov. 22, 2011

By Pelle Guldborg Hansen

Everyday quite a few articles, blogs and papers on Nudge and related issues are made available online. NudgeNews is our way of trying to facilitate a better understanding of nudging by giving you access and an overview.

Nov. 22, 2011

Nudge politics: More on the disbandment of the British obesity panel
(nudge politics, obesity)

We have often warned about what happens if nudging becomes too entangled with politics. A press release from PR fire on the recent dispandment of the British obesity panel gives a good picture of what happens with rethoric about nudge, when it becomes possible to evaluate it as nudge politics. Even Jamie Oliver seems to have an opinion:
Coalition Turns It’s Back On Obesity
More on Chatterjee and the psychology of credit cards
On the CreditCardGuide Marcia Frellick picks up Charretjee's recent study about how just being primed about credit cards leads customers to be willing to spend more as well as over-evaluate the value of wanted goods. A nice feat of this post is that Frellick has asked Art Markman (Professor of Psychology and Marketing at the University of Texas at Austin) as well as Jill Norvilitis (professor of psychology at Buffalo State College in New York) for additional information:

Under the Influence of Credit, Shoppers Primed to Buy
That's all for today.

Monday, November 21, 2011

NudgeNews Nov. 21, 2011

By Pelle Guldborg Hansen

Everyday quite a few articles, blogs and papers on Nudge and related issues are made available online. NudgeNews is our way of trying to facilitate a better understanding of nudging by giving you access and an overview.

Nov. 21, 2011

Green nudges, Singapore, energy use. - Asia Pacific's sustainable business community reports on from Singapore International Energy Week, where a discussion of the role of behavioural economics in energy use was organised by the National University of Singapore’s Energy Studies Institute (ESI):

To save the earth, know human nature, (Nov 20, 2011)
Nudge, books, criticism.
Yesterday Farnham street reported on Steven Cave's piece in Financial Times from Nov. 18
Nudge thyself
Basically Nudge thyself is a book review of three books potrayed as alternatives to the Nudge-doctrine. Ultimately the book review isn't that encouraging, and Steven Cave ends by giving a criticism we recently saw in William Easterly's book review of Kahneman's Thinking, fast and slow, but which were later rejected by Leigh Caldwell in his
Does Nudge require regulators to be "more rational" than consumers?

Keeping to the book reviews Sander van der Linden reviews the long awaited Nudge, Nudge, Think, Think by Peter John et al. You may read the book review here:
Book Review: Nudge, Nudge, Think, Think: Experimenting with Ways to Change Civic Behaviour
That's all for today:)

Saturday, November 19, 2011

NudgeNews Nov. 20, 2011

By Pelle Guldborg Hansen

Everyday quite a few articles, blogs and papers on Nudge and related issues are made available online. NudgeNews is our way of trying to facilitate a better understanding of nudging by giving you access and an overview.

Nov. 20, 2011.

food, public health, obesity. The Atlantic reports on the UK Government decision to disband advisory group on obesity issues, picking up very well, how nudging easily may become a political smokescreen for inaction.   
UK Government Quietly Disbands Advisory Group on Obesity Issues
Interestingly the reporter also decides to refer the reader directly to a discussion in BMJ (good journalism is rare these days!). You may find them here:
Is nudge an effective public health strategy to tackle obesity? No by Geof Rayner, honorary research fellow, and Tim Lang, professor of food policy
Is nudge an effective public health strategy to tackle obesity? Yes by Adam Oliver, senior lecturer
growing your own nudge, foodFinally, we've decide to bring you this story by Tara Conolly about having school children grow their own vegetables, since it ecchoes and earlier post we had how to grow your own nudge :
Forks and Tracy Elementary Get New Outdoor 'Classrooms'

Friday, November 18, 2011

NudgeNews Nov. 18, 2011

Credit: Salvatore Vuono
By Pelle Guldborg Hansen

Everyday quite a few articles, blogs and papers on Nudge and related issues are made available online. NudgeNews is our way of trying to facilitate a better understanding of nudging by giving you access and an overview.

Nov. 18, 2011. 

Consumer, money, economy. report on how HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) step up their Tax Health Plan using the social nudges.
CIOT: Doctors’ orders – HMRC issue final warning to 2500 health professionals

Consumer, money, economy, new research. Bob Sullivan reports on new research published in Journal of Consumer Research by Promothesh Chatterjee of the University of Kansas and Randall L. Rose or University of South Carolina suggesting that not only do credit cards make you use more money (the credit card premium), but it also makes you evaluate goods in a biased way. 

Using a credit card induces euphoria, new research shows

Sustainability, university, trashWhen University of Pittsburgh students weren’t recycling, student Jamie Kimmel designed some new labels to help people realize the consequences of their actions.

U Of Recycling: Creative Signage Gives A Nudge

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Why nudging is better than the fat tax and other tools of the trade

By Andreas Maaløe Jespersen & Pelle Guldborg Hansen

"We do not first see, then define,
we define first and then we see."

              - Walter Lippmann (cited in Plous 1993)

Taxation and regulation are the traditional tools of the trade in policy-making. Thus, we've just seen here in Denmark how policy-makers have tried to prevent people from eating unhealthy foods: the fat tax. 

But honestly, in the months that have past we are yet to actually observe someone saying "ooohh, my Danish pastry costs 9 cents more than a couple of months ago. I better cut down!" Is someone actually expecting this tax to change behavior? We doubt it, but let's play along.  

Tools of the trade
What the fat tax seems to confirm is the old saying: "If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail." (and additionally: if everyone expect you to use a hammer, they'll accept it, no matter how stupid the idea). 

credit to africa
In our jurney outside of Academia we've started to learn that this not only holds true in research, but also in the worlds of policy-making, marketing and advertisement as well. Seeking to influence behavior, policy-makers readilly opt for taxation and regulation, doctores opt for medicine, intellectuals opt for talking and teaching, and the advertising and marketing industry opt for hillariously expensive campaigns featuring material or events with half-naked women or celebreties (and often cutting expenses by finding someone who is both). 

We've also been confirmed in our belief that when policy-makers learn that their attempts to influence behavior by taxation and regulation fails, or when they find these meaures to be too invasive, they have for a long time turned to the advertisement and marketing industry - perhaps because it seems to be the most fun alternative. 

Measuring success
Yet, how is success usually measured in these branches? Well, the success of a new tax often seems to be measured by the tax collected, talk and teaching by the number of people who listens, and advertisements by the number of people who remembers to have seen the half-naked celebrety. 

The most recent plague in this business seems to the success meassured by the number of people signing up to a facebook group, or the number of people that have clicked a video on youtube - after all, numbers are objective, right?

However, notice that none of these approaches actually measures behaviour change! 

Self-fulfilling prophecies
When the rare occassion do happen and impact is actually measured on behavior or parameters closely associated with this, the tools of the trade are often given a biased evaluation. When these tools are seen to work (even the slightest), it is usually taken to confirm that we are using the right tools, but when they don't, it is just taken to confirm that we have not applied them with enough force. In sum: raise the taxes, harsher punishment, more information, more education, and more... well, half-naked celebreties.

Depending on one's point of view, this may be seen as (1) a reaction to sunk costs based on loss-aversion, (2) a reaction to the cognitive dissonance arising from being wrong, while at the same time believing oneself to be flawless, or (3) confirmation bias.

However, the most interesting reaction are the rare occasion where the tools of the trade are recognized to fail. In these cases, the people responsible for the behavior targeted are blamed.  Had they just been super-rational economic beings - as we all would like to be - they would have reacted in the way intended and according to their own interests. They're to blame! Not us!

Readers of this blog will know that Nudge offers a different set of tools aimed at influencing the same behavior as usually targeted by the tools of the trade. However, it is important that we remember not to make the same mistake as the more "experienced players" in the game of behavioral change. 

Thus, it is important to remember that the nudge-doctrine is not a catch-all strategy that completely wipes out the need for more traditional policy measures (a). Nor does signs of success imply with necessity that we should always be restricted to keeping within the nudge-doctrine. There might be cases where stronger interventions are needed.
Instead Nudge should be seen as an addition to the already existing toolbox.

Still, the nudge-doctrine does possess one strict advantage over other tools of the trade. It expands the perception of what is constitutive of the behavior targeted and requires a good account of this behavior.

When we fail, we're to blame - not them.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

NudgeNews Nov. 8, 2011

Credit: Salvatore Vuono
By Pelle Guldborg Hansen

Everyday quite a few articles, blogs and papers on Nudge and related issues are made available online. NudgeNews is our way of trying to facilitate a better understanding of nudging by giving you access and an overview.

Nov. 8, 2011. 
Writing for Forbes magazine, Michael Millenson reports from the annaual meeting of the Society of Medical Decision Making where the use of insights from behavioral economics on the medical marketplace were discussed in relation to ethical issues (published Nov. 7)
The Fine Line Between Shared and Manipulated Medical Decisions reports a study from Psychological Science "Leaning to the Left Makes the Eiffel Tower Seem Smaller: Posture-Modulated Thought" apparently showing that estimates are affected by you balance. On the great side, the study used a Wii-board to measure balance. On the bad side, I'm inclined to think that there may be some issues on the direction of causality - still, I'm looking forward to reading it.
Which Way You Lean—Physically—Affects Your Decision-Making

On his blog Kowing and Making - a blog about cognitive and behavioural economics - Leigh Caldwell discusses a criticism of Libertarian Paternalism pointing to an inconsistency of this doctrine. The criticism was originally published in the Wall Street Journal in a review of Kahneman's new book Thinking fast and slow. The review may be found in our post of posts. Leigh Caldwell's puts forward a series of a convincing counter-arguments - except for the last one he mentions. Read the post here:
Does Nudge require regulators to be "more rational" than consumers?

That was all for today.

Report no.1: ISSP Public Lecture w. Richard Thaler

By Pelle Guldborg Hansen, Andreas Maaløe Jespersen & Katrine Lund Skov

On October 21 the long anticipated ISSP Public Lecture 2011 was given by Richard Thaler at the Metropolitan University College in Copenhagen. 

More than 200 citizens, business representatives, academics, and policy makers had decided to use the Friday of the Danish one week "potato-holiday" to attend Prof. Thaler's lecture on Nudging.

The lecture
The lecture was arranged through the Danish Nudging Network in collaboration between ISSP, the Metropolitan University College, University of Southern Denmark, Trygfonden, the Danish Cancer Society, MindLab, DEA, and Aalborg University with the aim of giving anyone with an interest in our general 'health, wealth and happiness' a first hand encounter with the nudge-doctrine and one of its 'founding fathers'. The encounter became both intimate, deliberative and entertaining.

Throughout the lecture Prof. Thaler stayed close to the main tenets of the underlying book Nudge: Improving Decisions about Health, Wealth and Happiness (2008) thereby truly respecting the fact that the idea of nudging is new to most people in Denmark. As a result the audience got an impression of the original motives underlying the writing of the book as well as its core ideas.

The lecture covered several 'high-impact' examples of nudging such as schemes for private pension systems and sign up procedures for organ donation. But it also presented some concrete examples from the world of design, architecture, and law, such as badly designed stoves, school lunch rooms, and mobile calling plans.

Common to all of the various examples Prof. Thaler presented was that they each showed in one way or another, how accepting and respecting the psychology of human decision making in the way we arrange the details of the physical, social, and juridical structures that underpin our decisions and behavior may make a significant difference on society and our individual well-being.

Questions and answers
After 1½ hour the ISSP Lecture concluded with a relaxed Q&A. The questions reflected the broad variety of interest represented in the audience. "Will nudging make us less capable of handling choices in the future?"  and "What separates nudging from manipulation?" were some of the questions asked thereby showing that the ISSP Lecture served its purpose of allowing people first-hand interaction and engagement with Nudging and one of its founding fathers.

In the picture you can see Prof. Richard Thaler (sitting), Co-Director of ISSP Pelle Guldborg Hansen (standing), Anders Hede (Trygfonden, back to camera), Science Journalist Peter Hesseldahl (background to the right) Credit: Tobias Egmose

However, to find out what Prof. Thaler answered to these question you have wait a little while...

While waiting you might want to read about the perfect way to nudge yourself to freedom.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Nudge: The post of posts

Credit: nuttakit
There's a lot of good (and bad) posts on nudging out there. This post tries to keep you updated on the most serious ones.

Behavioral Economics Foils an Obama Tax Cut?
Nov. 10. 2011. New research finds that a trendy economic theory backfired on the Obama Administration. Or did it? By Drake Bennett, Bloomberg Businessweek.

'Nudge' policies are another name for coercion
Nov. 9. 2011. A really bad article by Henry Farrell and Cosma Shalizi in the otherwise credible New Scientist. We're still wondering how it passed. Further, New Scientist doesn't seem to want a response to it!

Does Nudge require regulators to be "more rational" than consumers?
Nov. 8. 2011. A great post from Leigh Caldwell on his blog "Knowing and making" about an issue raisedby amongst others the Wall Street Journal review on Kahneman's "Thinking fast and slow" (below). 

Daniel Kahneman’s Politics
Oct. 28. 2011. The Wall Street Journal. Post on Kahneman's comments in his new book "Thinking fast and slow" on Thaler and Sunstein's Libertarian Paternalism.

Nudge unit: How the Government wants to change the way we think
Jan. 3. 2011. Belfast Telegraph. Martin Hickman lifts the lid on the secret Whitehall policy unit dreaming up psychological tricks to alter our behaviour.