Paper by Aidan Coville, Vincenzo Di Maro, Felipe Dunsch and Siegfried Zottel: “This paper investigates the immediate and medium-term behavioral response to an emotional trigger designed to affect biases in intertemporal financial decisions. The emotional trigger is provided by a narrative portraying the catastrophic consequences of poor financial choices. Even when people are fully aware of the most appropriate action to take, cognitive biases may prevent this knowledge from translating into action.
The paper contributes to the literature by directly testing the importance of linking emotional stimulus to financial messages, to influence borrowing and saving decisions, and identifying the interaction between emotional stimulus and the opportunity to act on this stimulus. The study randomly assigned individuals to a featured production — a Nollywood (the Nigerian Hollywood) movie — on the financial consequences of poor borrowing and saving behavior. This treatment is interacted with the option of opening a savings account at the screening of the movie. At the exit of the screening, individuals in the financial education movie treatment are more likely to open a savings account than individuals in the placebo movie treatment. However, the effects dissipate quickly. When savings and borrowing behavior is measured four months later, the study finds no differences between treatments. The paper concludes that emotional triggers delivered in the context of a one-time feature film might not be enough to secure sustained changes in behavior….(More)”.
Chapter by Michael Howlett and Stuti Rawat: “Behavioral science consists of the systematic analysis of processes underlying human behavior through experimentation and observation, drawing on knowledge, research, and methods from a variety of fields such as economics, psychology, and sociology. Because policymaking involves efforts to modify or alter the behavior of policy-takers and centers on the processes of decision-making in government, it has always been concerned with behavioral psychology. Classic studies of decision-making in the field derived their frameworks and concepts from psychology, and the founder of policy sciences, Harold Lasswell, was himself trained as a behavioral political scientist. Hence, it should not be surprising that the use of behavioral science is a feature of many policy areas, including climate change policy.
This is given extra emphasis, however, because climate change policymaking and the rise of climate change as a policy issue coincides with a resurgence in behaviorally inspired policy analysis and design brought about by the development of behavioral economics. Thus efforts to deal with climate change have come into being at a time when behavioral governance has been gaining traction worldwide under the influence of works by, among others, Kahneman and Tversky, Thaler, and Sunstein. Such behavioral governance studies have focused on the psychological and cognitive behavioral processes in individuals and collectives, in order to inform, design, and implement different modes of governing. They have been promoted by policy scholars, including many economists working in the area who prefer its insights to those put forward by classical or neoclassical economics.
In the context of climate change policy, behavioral science plays two key roles—through its use of behaviorally premised policy instruments as new modes of public policy being used or proposed to be used, in conjunction with traditional climate change policy tools; and as a way of understanding some of the barriers to compliance and policy design encountered by governments in combating the “super wicked problem” of climate change. Five kinds of behavioral tools have been found to be most commonly used in relation to climate change policy: provision of information, use of social norms, goal setting, default rules, and framing. A large proportion of behavioral tools has been used in the energy sector, because of its importance in the context of climate change action and the fact that energy consumption is easy to monitor, thereby facilitating impact assessment….(More)”.
Paper by Ayelet Sela: “Justice systems around the world are launching online courts and tribunals in order to improve access to justice, especially for self-represented litigants (SRLs). Online courts are designed to handhold SRLs throughout the process and empower them to make procedural and substantive decisions. To that end, they present SRLs with streamlined and simplified procedures and employ a host of user interface design and user experience strategies (UI/UX). Focusing on these features, the article analyzes online courts as digital choice environments that shape SRLs’ decisions, inputs and actions, and considers their implications on access to justice, due process and the impartiality of courts. Accordingly, the article begins to close the knowledge gap regarding choice architecture in online legal proceedings.
Using examples from current online courts, the article considers how mechanisms such as choice overload, display, colorfulness, visual complexity, and personalization influence SRLs’ choices and actions. The analysis builds on research in cognitive psychology and behavioral economics that shows that subtle changes in the context in which decisions are made steer (nudge) people to choose a particular option or course of action. It is also informed by recent studies that capture the effect of digital choice architecture on users’ choices and behaviors in online settings. The discussion clarifies that seemingly naïve UI/UX features can strongly influence users of online courts, in a manner that may be at odds with their institutional commitment to impartiality and due process. Moreover, the article challenges the view that online court interfaces (and those of other online legal services, for that matter) should be designed to maximize navigability, intuitiveness and user-friendliness. It argues that these design attributes involve the risk of nudging SRLs to make uninformed, non-deliberate, and biased decisions, possibly infringing their autonomy and self-determination. Accordingly, the article suggests that choice architecture in online courts should aim to encourage reflective participation and informed decision-making. Specifically, its goal should be to improve SRLs’ ability to identify and consider options, and advance their own — inherently diverse — interests. In order to mitigate the abovementioned risks, the article proposes an initial evaluation framework, measures, and methodologies to support evidence-based and ethical choice architecture in online courts….(More)”.
Paper by Tiago Peixoto et al : “Benjamin Franklin famously once said that “nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” In developing countries, however, tax revenues are anything but certain. Madagascar is a prime example, with tax collection as a share of GDP at just under 11 percent. This is low even compared with countries of similar levels of economic development, and well below what the government could reasonably collect to fund much-needed public services, such as education, health and infrastructure.
Poor compliance by citizens who owe taxes remains a major reason for Madagascar’s low tax collection. Madagascar’s government has therefore made increasing tax revenue collection a high priority in its strategy for promoting sustainable economic growth and addressing poverty.
We took a group of 15,885 late-income-tax filers and randomly assigned some of them to receive a series of messages reminding them to file a tax declaration and emphasizing various reasons to pay taxes. Late tax filers were told that they could avoid a late penalty by meeting an extended deadline and were given the link to the tax filing website.
The results of the experiment were significant. In the control group, only 7.2% of late filers filed a tax return by the extended deadline cited in the SMS messages. This increased to 9.8% in the treatment groups who received SMS reminders. This might not sound like much, but for every dollar spent sending text messages, the tax authority collected an additional 329 dollars in revenues, making the intervention highly cost-effective.
In fact, the return on this particular investment was 32,900 percent! Although this increase in revenue is relatively small in absolute terms—around $375,000—it could be automatically integrated into the tax system. It also suggests that messaging may hold a lot of promise for cost-effectively increasing tax receipts even in developing country contexts….(More)”.
Paper by Philip Oreopoulos and Uros Petronijevic: “We present results from a five-year effort to design promising online and text-message interventions to improve college achievement through several distinct channels. From a sample of nearly 25,000 students across three different campuses, we find some improvement from coaching-based interventions on mental health and study time, but none of the interventions we evaluate significantly influences academic outcomes (even for those students more at risk of dropping out). We interpret the results with our survey data and a model of student effort. Students study about five to eight hours fewer each week than they plan to, though our interventions do not alter this tendency. The coaching interventions make some students realize that more effort is needed to attain good grades but, rather than working harder, they settle by adjusting grade expectations downwards. Our study time impacts are not large enough for translating into significant academic benefits. More comprehensive but expensive programs appear more promising for helping college students outside the classroom….(More)”
Blog by Chuck Dinerstein: “Policymakers love nudges – predictably altering people’s behavior without forbidding choices or changing economic incentives. That is especially true for our food choices since we all eat, and it is clear that diet does have some effect on our health. The “promise to improve people’s diet at a fraction of the cost of economic incentives or education programs without imposing new taxes or constraints on business or consumers,” is a have my cake and eat it world. A study by the masters of understanding our behavior, the marketers, sheds light on which nudges work best….
Cognitive nudges include those often-invoked nutritional labels or evaluative labels that skip the verbiage and are green for buy, red for put it back on the shelf, and yellow for it’s up to you. Visibility enhancements refer to getting the item into your visual field at the right time and place, like eye-level on the shelf or in the check-out line. Nudges that appeal to our feelings include all the images making food appealing, think food porn, or simple slogans, e.g., “natural,” “healthy choice,” or ”just like mama made.” (Assuming mom was a good cook). As the researchers point out, there are no labels on foods that promote guilt or concern as we see on tobacco’s Surgeon General warnings. Finally, there are behavioral nudges that make one choice easier than another, precut fruits and vegetables, or big utensils for vegetables, and tiny ones for fried chicken. It also includes smaller plates that might look fuller or large drink glasses that are 80% ice
Here is the graphic of their findings:
Graphic by Pierre Chandon
Nudges do move behavior, although the effect is small, a change of about 124 calories, or in the author’s words “eight fewer teaspoons of sugar.” For those who do not eat sugar by the spoonful, you might consider this to be 1 ½ Jelly Filled Munchkins.
As the graph shows, appealing to our intellect works the least well, appeals to our emotions are twice as effective, and making it easy to do the “right thing” works the best, five-fold better, than educating us.
Nudges are better at decreasing bad choices than increasing good ones. “it is easier to make people eat less chocolate cake than to make them eat more vegetables…” In fact, total eating was basically unaffected by nudges, again as the authors write, “this finding is consistent with what we know about the difficulty – perhaps even pointlessness – of hypocaloric diets.”
The effect of nudges is a lot less when you’re shopping than when you’re eating.
The effect of nudges in isolation seems more pronounced statistically speaking than when considered in conjunction with where they take place and other contextual information.
Nudges were equally effective, or ineffective, with adults and children; although you might expect that adults would be more responsive given their presumably better understanding of diet and health
The study makes two points. First, nudges can move behavior a little bit, and the fact that it has few recognized costs means that policymakers will continue to utilize them. Second, it provides an analytic framework highlighting areas where the evidence is scant and could, I suggest, nudge researchers to explore….(More)”.
Zack Quaintance at Government Technology: “A new study has found that a small human-centered design tweak made by government can increase the number of eligible people who enroll for food benefits.
The study — conducted by the data science firm Civis Analytics and the nonprofit food benefits enrollment advocacy group mRelief — was conducted in Los Angeles County from January to April of this year. It was designed to test a pair of potential improvements. The first was the ability to schedule a call directly with the CalFresh office, which handles food benefits enrollment in California. The second was the ability to schedule a call along with a text reminder to schedule a call. The study was conducted via a randomized control trial that ultimately included about 2,300 people.
What the research found was an 18 percent increase in enrollment within the group that was given the chance to schedule a call. Subsequently, text reminders showed no increase of any significance….(More)”.
Anjana Ahuja at the Financial Times: “It should be a moment of cautious optimism: a second promising vaccine has become available to tackle the Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Instead, there is uncertainty and angst. Clinicians desperately want to see the new vaccine deployed. But officials in the DRC, unnerved by public reaction to an earlier experimental vaccine, worry that introducing a second one might stoke public suspicions and destabilise containment efforts.
Experts met in the capital Kinshasa last week to work out which way to jump. The dilemma illustrates that human behaviour can be as destructive to global health as any deadly pathogen. Addressing diseases — even the organ-destroying horror that is Ebola — is no longer a matter of merely concocting a vaccine but also persuading people to roll up their sleeves for it. Some academics are even calling for the World Health Organization to establish its own “nudge unit” to apply lessons from behavioural science. While dealing with disease outbreaks “require[s] modifying or working with human behaviour”, they wrote recently in Scientific American, “the global response to these threats lacks a coherent focus on behavioural insights.”…(More)”
Book (New Second Edition) by Peter John, Sarah Cotterill, Alice Moseley, Liz Richardson, Graham Smith, Gerry Stoker and Corinne Wales: “How can governments persuade their citizens to act in socially beneficial ways? This ground-breaking book builds on the idea of ‘light touch interventions’ or ‘nudges’ proposed in Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein’s highly influential Nudge (2008). While recognising the power of this approach, it argues that an alternative also needs to be considered: a ‘think’ strategy that calls on citizens to decide their own priorities as part of a process of civic and democratic renewal. As well as setting out these divergent approaches in theory, the book provides evidence from a number of experiments to show how using ‘nudge’ or ‘think’ techniques works in practice.
Updated and rewritten, this second edition features a new epilogue that reflects on recent developments in nudge theory and practice, introducing a radical version of nudge, ‘nudge plus’. There is also a substantial prologue by Cass Sunstein….(More)”.
Paper by Sylvain Chabé-Ferret, Philippe Le Coent, Arnaud Reynaud, Julie Subervie and Daniel Lepercq: “We test whether social comparison nudges can promote water-saving behaviour among farmers as a complement to traditional CAP measures. We conducted a randomised controlled trial among 200 farmers equipped with irrigation smart meters in South-West France. Treated farmers received weekly information on individual and group water consumption over four months. Our results rule out medium to large effect-sizes of the nudge. Moreover, they suggest that the nudge was effective at reducing the consumption of those who irrigate the most, although it appears to have reduced the proportion of those who do not consume water at all….(More)”.