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People think fast and often automatically, respond strongly to social incentives, and use mental models or specific worldviews to interpret information and perceptions. So, shouldn’t we be taking into account their thinking and behaviors while designing policies?
Also available in: Español, Français, 中文
In 2014, Australian startup founder Evan Thornley gave a talk at a technology startup conference about why he likes to hire women. So far, so good. However, things quickly deteriorated when he explained that part of the reason was that women were “still often relatively cheap compared to what we would’ve had to pay someone less good of a different gender”, illustrated by a slide that read “Women. Like men, only cheaper”.
While the ensuing media outcry quickly forced Thornley to backtrack on his comments, the reality his slide so eloquently put into words is not so easily revised. Even in Silicon Valley, considered one of the most forward-thinking industries in the world, women continue to be paid less than their male counterparts.
We’ve all been there. Leafing through a magazine, or on the subway, glancing up at the billboards, and then a moment of painful awareness as our eyes meet those of a starving child. Limbs grotesquely proportioned, belly distended, the image is accompanied by a request for help. For some small sum of money you too can save a life. Again you see the image… and reach for your phone. You text CHILD or SAVE or LIFE to the relevant organization. Then, conscience temporarily assuaged, you encounter a sinking feeling as you remember you’ve seen this before. How exactly will your donation help the child? What purpose do these images really serve?
This is the fourteenth in our series of posts by students on the job market this year.
People are afraid of HIV. Moreover, people around the world are convinced that the virus is easier to get than it actually is. The median person thinks that if you have unprotected sex with an HIV-positive person a single time, you will get HIV for sure. The truth is that it’s not nearly that easy to get HIV – the medical literature estimates that the transmission rate is actually about 0.1% per sex act, or 10% per year.
Ten years after the World Development Report 2004, the ODI’s Marta Foresti reflects on the past decade and implications for the future
Why do so many countries still fail to deliver adequate services to their citizens? And why does this problem persist even in countries with rapid economic growth and relatively robust institutions or policies?
This was the problem addressed by the World Bank’s ground-breaking 2004 World Development Report (WDR) Making Services Work for Poor People. At its core was the recognition that politics and accountability are vital to improve services and that aid donors ignore this at their peril. Ten years on, these issues are still at the heart of the development agenda, as discussed at the anniversary conference organised jointly by ODI and the World Bank in late February.
As much as this was a moment to celebrate the influence of the WDR 2004 on a decade of development thinking and practice, it also highlighted just how far we have to go before every citizen around the world has access to good quality basic services such as education, health, water and electricity.
One of the things I find endlessly fascinating about human beings is the gap between our avowed values and our behavior when we come under pressure. I have come to believe that your values are the ones that shape your conduct when you are dealing with a tough, high pressure situation or a life crisis, not the values you spout when you are showing off at the dinner table. Pieties are all too easy. What do you do when the going gets tough? What values truly underpin your conduct? I notice this most often when people claim to be profoundly devout, and they want you to know it. They claim an aura of sanctity. I have learned not to argue with them. I wait until they have to deal with complexity and then see what they do. You’d be amazed what some of these people get up to. More often than not, piety flies out of the window.
Look around you today. We are all supposed to be democrats these days. We love openness, inclusiveness, and transparency— everybody counts, every voice matters. But what do we do when the going gets tough? Let’s reflect on a few current situations around the world.
There seems to be a growing consensus among experts in different fields that in today’s highly interdependent world, effective collaboration has become crucial for achieving results.
As part of the World Bank's Internal Justice System Week a few days ago, we attended a presentation by Dr. Peter Coleman, Director of the International Center for Cooperation and Conflict Resolution at Columbia University and heir of an illustrious research tradition in social-psychology going back almost a hundred years. Dr. Coleman is part of an inter-disciplinary team of global experts that also includes mathematicians, astrophysicists, anthropologists and computer modeling experts in a quest to answer the following question: what are the conditions that support or hinder collaboration in social relations?
Using computer simulations they observed the results of competitive and cooperative behaviors, and detected how dynamic patterns develop over time. They realized that the dynamic social relations created behaved in ways similar to those that have been observed in other complex systems, from cancerous cellular mutations to global climate shifts. Like such systems, social dynamics are not only complex but also “non-linear”, which means that the different elements constantly influence each other, acting as both cause and effect of each other’s behaviors. The tool available to study such systems is known as “dynamical system theory”, and Dr. Coleman’s team has been applying its methods to social systems.
“We are exquisitely sensitive to environment. We are just like rats – energy misers and cognitive misers. If there is a shortcut, we will take it.”
--Theresa Marteau, Head of the Behavior and Health Research Unit at Cambridge University
As quoted in the Financial Times, March 13, 2013. Drinking yourself to death is not a right, by John Gapper
At the 9th South Asia Economics Students' Meet on Green Growth, participants shared their vision about South Asian cities of the future. These are their innovative ideas.
South Asia, home to 1.3 billion people, houses some of the world's largest cities: Delhi, Dhaka, Kolkata, Karachi and Mumbai. As urbanization increases, the region will experience a hike in demand, consumption and production. Today, in Bhutan, 34% of the population still lives without electricity. With urbanization and development, carbon emissions from electricity generation and usage are bound to rise. Historically, it can be seen that the more developed a country, the greater its carbon emissions; USA's and Canada's drastic emission rates corroborate this. Although South Asia currently contributes much less to the carbon footprint than the more developed nations of the world, it is imperative to plan development so as to reduce its impact on environment.
“Individuals don’t lose identity in the crowd and they don’t lose control over their behaviour or rationality. Rather they shift to a shared social identity and seek to act in terms of that shared identity.”