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.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Interview with Richard Thaler and Guldborg Hansen

By Pelle Guldborg Hansen

Yesterday, The Engineer - a newspaper with approx. 60.000 subscribers (mostly engineers for some odd reason!) - featured a long article about nudging. The article incorporates and is based on an interview with Prof. Richard Thaler (Chicago Booth) and Pelle Guldborg Hansen (Co-Director of ISSP and Chairman of the Danish Nudging Network) given Oct. 22 - the day after Prof. Thaler's ISSP Public Lecture about nudging held at Metropol.

The article is written by Robin Engelhard who is a highly respected science journalist in Denmark. The interview shows why Robin Engelhardt is highly respected - it is both sound, critical and balanced.

If you know how to read Danish (or just how to use google translate), but don't subscribe to The Engineer you may read the unedited edition of the article at Robin's Depot.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

How to grow your own nudge

By Pelle Guldborg Hansen

Credit: Patou
Children, vegetables and fruit
The last couple of years I've heard several professionals say that the key to getting kids to enjoy healthy food is having them participate in preparing dinner. The idea seems to be that by doing this it will make them more open to trying out new kinds of food and thus also - so the argument seems to go - be more positive towards preparing and eating healthy food.

To me this idea seems to be somewhat naïve. In its strongest version I take the argument to be that some sort of effect resembling the endownment effect should be established by the process of food preparation. But why on Earth should this only pertain to potatoes and not to french fries?

When I was a kid...
When I was a kid I had chickens. That meant that every morning I could eat a great tasting soft-boiled egg. We also grew potatoes in the garden... and apples, carrots, pears, plums, strawberries and much more. Oh boy, did I eat a lot of fruit, vegetables... and eggs!

Today I struggle to get my 7 year old son to eat fruit, eggs and other healthy foods. I'm part of that big army of parents repeating every night "eat your vegetables" and "taste this fruit". But despite the fact that we have access to more varities of exotic fruits than ever, it doesn't seem that kids find it easier to enjoy the taste of fruit, vegetables... and eggs.

Now, of course I have tried regulation. You have to eat so-and-so before you can watch cartoons! But for some obvious reasons this doesn't really succeed in making him enjoy his fruits and vegetables. I've also tried the "sticks and carrots" approach to the sticks of carrots. If you eat so-and-so, you'll get (or don't get) this-and-this. But that doesn't really seem to have improved my goal (i.e. making him enjoy healthy food), since it only makes it a means to his ends.

In sum, the situation that I share with an army of parents calls for a nudge. That nudge doesn't seem to be one having kids preparing their own food, but rather having them grow it. That's right. Tonight I'll say:
"Son. When I was a kid we grew our own nudges. I think it's time for you to do the same."
After all, while you can grow potatoes, you can't grow french fries. Now I just have to get find some bags of top soil and carry it to the 4th floor!

Monday, October 17, 2011

How to Nudge Alzheimer's patients at the bus stop

Credit: anankkml
By Andreas Maaløe Jespersen & Pelle Guldborg Hansen

When we talk about nudging there´s a tendency to think of it in broad terms as tools and techniques that affect people in general, but this definition miss out on a lot of possible nudges, often far more effective than the general ones, that target specific groups with specific psychological traits.

One such nudge is the fake bus-stop outside Benrath Senior Centre in Düsseldorf. It looks like an ordinary bus-stop with the tiny exception that no buses arrive – ever, and the reason for this fake bus-stop is as brilliant as the idea is simple.

The problem
The Senior centre has a lot of elderly patients with Alzheimer´s disease, a disease that obstruct short term memory and often leads to profound confusion, which in turn makes the patients forget where they are as well as where they are going. This means that caretakers and nurses face a series of hard choices, since Alzheimer's patients, who are often mobile enough, may wander of, and often end up lost and prone to traffic accidents or hypothermia.

The risks associated with a lost Alzheimer´s patient are so serious that the staff often have to resolve to drastic measures like locking the doors or calling the police – both solutions that add to the confusion and misery of living with Alzheimer's disease. At Benrath Senior Centre, however, they decided to try a new solution.

Nudging at the bus stop
The fake-bus stop solves many of these problems and even reduces the need for coercion, all because someone took the time to understand why patients ran off, and designed a nudge that matched.

It turns out, that the patients often are looking for the quickest route back to the home they remember having when they wander off. This desire draws them to the bus stop since it brings back memories of all the routine return journeys they have taken throughout their life. After a while of waiting the desire to return home fades and the staff can gently escort the patient back to the centre.

This ingenious solution highlights one of the most appealing features of nudge – that you have to respect and understand your target group if you want to influence their behaviour without coercion. But if you invest both time and energy, small solutions like a fake bus-stop can make life easier and reduce injuries.

Public Lecture: Richard Thaler in Copenhagen

ISSP and Danish Nudging Network are proud to present professor Richard Thaler on 21 October in Copenhagen.

Thaler is a Ralph and Dorothy Keller Distinguished Service Professor in Behavioural theory and-economics at Chicago Booth, but most notably renowned for, together with Cass Sunstein, having written the book Nudge – Improving decisions about health, wealth and happiness (2008).
On 21 October (The Autumn holiday Friday) at 10:00-12:00 we are able to present a large public lecture with Thaler.

The event will be held at:
The purpose of Thaler’s visit is to increase awareness about the Nudge paradigm amongst the public and policy makers, especially in regards to the preliminary results, the future potentials and the immediate reservations in relation to this.

The Nudge paradigm has already gathered a large following and prevalence in the US and UK. Sunstein is advisor for president Obama’s administration, while Thaler has been special advisor for the British ”Nudge-Unit”, which in recent years has worked on integrating insights from behavioural economics into British health policy.

The event is coordinated by Danish Nudging Network, with ISSP, Kræftens Bekæmpelse, TrygFonden, Mind-Lab, Metropol, University of Southern Denmark, Aalborg University and DEA as leading forces.

Next post: Why the piano-stairs are not a case of nudging

Thursday, October 6, 2011

A Nudge to walk around the Earth

Digital artist: chrisroll 
By Pelle Guldborg Hansen & Katrine Lund Skov

Last week we attended the Nudge-Camp arranged by the Metropolitan University College (you can see the announcement in the DNN newsletter vol.2, and read more about the Nudge-Camp in a coming post). More than 50 students were gathered to try to develop ideas for nudging concrete problems which was delivered on the spot by institutions and organizations, many of which were members of the nudging network (The Danish Cancer Society, Odense Municipality, The Roskilde Festival, Provokator).

One of the nudges we found most interesting was a nudge to walk around the earth. Yes, that's right - to walk around the earth!

The idea was developed to solve a challenge posed by Odense Municipality of how to get employees within the eldercare not just to be a bit more physically active at work, but also to enjoy it.

So how does it work?
Digital artist: vorakorn kanokpipat
The idea is strikingly simple. The first “step” is to equip employees with a pedometer. Well, that's not new you think. Haven't we known for a long time that a pedometer may increase awareness of and thus the number of steps taken through the mechanism of disclosure combined with self-competition? Well, at least that it works for a while?

Yes, and that's the problem. Disclosure may change behavior, but the battery of the pedometer lasts longer than its behavioral impact.

What the students suggested was to invigorate the behavioral effect of the pedometer by attaching it to a social nudge. Now this is always a dangerous strategy, and as we have written about in an earlier post, one should be particularly careful of not combining social nudges with incentive schemes.

So how did the students combine the pedometer nudge with a social nudge in a pleasant and non-coercive way?

Well, they suggested that the number of steps were aggregated before being publicly disclosed on a world map, showing how far the team had walked together on a trip around Earth.

Simple, small, pleasant, and social - and if one finds it impossible to refrain from adding some kind of incentive scheme, then it is possible to find some insignificant but still pleasant ways to extend the nudge. One week the apples might be from Italy, next week the coffee might be from Turkey, the week after the lobby may play music from Egypt, and so on...

Ooh - by the way
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  2. Did you know that "Prof. Nudge" aka Richard Thaler is coming to Copenhagen this month? And did you remember to sign up for his Public Lecture? If not, you may do it here.
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Monday, October 3, 2011

OKITE: Nudge yourself out of bed

by Pelle Guldborg Hansen & Andreas Maaløe Jespersen

Our last post reported on the perfect nudge: "Freedom" - a program designed to help you nudge yourself to keep away from the internet, when you have better things to do.

Now we came across another self-commitment Nudge based on ET (everyday-technologies): OKITE - the nudge app to get your out of bed in the morning.

So how does it work?
The OKITE is a social nudge that provides a simple self-commitment mechanism: it's an alarm-clock app that sends an embarrassing 'tweet' to all your 'followers' whenever you hit the snooze button.

We think the idea is especially brilliant, since it numbs some of the ethical problems inherent in any social nudge by being a self-commitment device. We also conjecture that it would work even better, if it could be made to post embarrassing pictures of you on your social sites.

Most interestingly, perhaps, we think that this kind of nudge could be extended to several other lapses of our capacity to follow up on your plans. For instance, an app could be designed to send out embarrasing pictures or messages if you exceeded a self-imposed limit on your credit card, or used this in a particular shop.

But what about other extensions or unintended consequences? If you can think of such, please share it with us in the comments.

Ooh - by the way
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