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Nudge

How behavioral science has helped me deal with development projects and my children

Anna Fruttero's picture
 
Children in kindergarten in rural Uzbekistan. © Matluba Mukhamedova/World Bank
Children in kindergarten in rural Uzbekistan. © Matluba Mukhamedova/World Bank

“Working on the World Development Report 2015 and subsequently in the eMBeD Unit mainstreaming the use of behavioral insights within World Bank’s projects, has also been very helpful when dealing with my kids”, I told a class of undergrads where I had been invited as a speaker. The first question I was asked in the open Q&A was whether I could elaborate on that statement. How had behavioral insights helped me with my kids? Students wanted to know more. The fact that college students picked up on this sentence out of an hour-long conversation on my experience with behavioral work at the World Bank struck me.

Define the problem in terms of a behavior. Ask how rather than why. Change the frame, the perspective of looking at a problem. Diagnose the constraints. Test and adapt your interventions. These are some of the messages we teach in our workshops on behavioral insights designed for our colleagues and counterparts in governments. They are simple, yet very powerful, and they have certainly helped me working on projects in a wide range of places such as Brazil, Ethiopia and the Maldives, but also, unexpectedly, in dealing with my children.

“Nudge units” – where they came from and what they can do

Zeina Afif's picture

You could say that the first one began in 2009, when the US government recruited Cass Sunstein to head The Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) to streamline regulations. In 2010, the UK established the first Behavioural Insights Unit (BIT) on a trial basis, under the Cabinet Office. Other countries followed suit, including the US, Australia, Canada, Netherlands, and Germany. Shortly after, countries such as India, Indonesia, Peru, Singapore, and many others started exploring the application of behavioral insights to their policies and programs. International institutions such as the World Bank, UN agencies, OECD, and EU have also established behavioral insights units to support their programs. And just this month, the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland launched its own Behavioral Economics Unit.

Everyone misbehaves: Putting the 2017 Economics Nobel Prize to work for development

eMBeD Team's picture

Monday’s announcement of the 2017 Nobel Prize for economics, to Richard Thaler, for his groundbreaking work incorporating psychology into economic theory, was a victory not only for the University of Chicago Professor and co-author of Nudge: Improving Decisions about Health, Wealth, and Happiness, but for behaviorally-informed policy worldwide.

Keeping Up with Sunstein!

Zeina Afif's picture

As an enthusiast and practitioner of behavioral science, I try to stay current with the latest research and papers from the field. I follow the work of behavioral economics superstars such as Dan Ariely, Daniel Kahneman, Cass Sunstein, Richard Thaler, Robert Cialdini, and others. One thing, though, keeps challenging me. Cass Sunstein is a publishing machine! As soon as I finish reading one of his books or papers, three or four more pop up! 

For those not familiar with Sunstein, he is a law and behavioral economics professor at Harvard who co-authored with Richard Thaler the best seller, “Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness”. Sunstein also served as the Administrator of the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, where he applied behavioral economics in the design and implementation of regulations.
 

Since the publication of ‘Nudge’, an increasing number of countries and government institutions have started applying insights from behavioral science in designing and implementing new policies and programs. The World Bank World Development Report 2015: Mind, Society, and Behavior outlined the ways behavioral science can complement policy makers’ toolbox and the European Commission and OECD published recent reports highlighting the latest developments.  The number of books, research papers and articles on the topic have doubled since the book was originally published.

Can behavioral change support water conservation? Examples from the US, Colombia and Costa Rica

Juan Jose Miranda's picture


This blog is part of the series "Small changes, big impacts: applying #behavioralscience into development".

While Latin America is rich in water, people’s ability to access safe, reliable water supply remains elusive in most countries. Worse, most countries and major cities in the region will face economic water scarcity in less than a decade. Strategies to manage water scarcity vary, from investing in water recycling facilities to changing consumer behavior.

The most common ways to change consumer behavior are to increase the price or conduct communication campaigns to encourage conservation. Neither solution, however, is guaranteed to succeed. In some cases, they even backfire. Increasing price, for example, can upset citizens who currently pay little for poor quality water. Likewise, if done poorly, communication campaigns can cause panic and increase consumption and water stockpiling, something Bogota faced in 1997 when a tunnel providing water to the city collapsed and caused water shortages.

#10 from 2016: Nudge for good: How insights from behavioral economics can improve the world— and manipulate people

Roxanne Bauer's picture
Our Top Ten blog posts by readership in 2016. This post was originally posted on August 16, 2016.
 
Richard H. Thaler is a world-renowned behavioral economist and professor of finance and psychology. Recently, he was interviewed by The Economist. The discussion covers some of the fundamental studies in the field, like “save more tomorrow” which encourages people to save more by signing up to increase their savings rate every year and auto-enrollment for pensions that have drastically increased employee participation in pension funds.

Thaler also suggests, in the interview, that behavioral economics has the ability to influence human behavior for both good and bad. He argues that much of what behavioral economics does is remove barriers. The goal is not to change people but to make life easier, but that idea can be skewed by organizations or individuals looking to capitalize on the biases of people. Whenever he is asked to sign a copy of his book Nudge, he writes “nudge for good” which is a plea, he says, to improve the lives of people and avoid insidious behavior.

The list of ways companies nudge behavior is endless, and I would love to hear more examples from you all in the comments section. In the meantime here are a few- I’ll let you judge which ones “nudge for good”:

Blog post of the month: Nudge for good: How insights from behavioral economics can improve the world— and manipulate people

Roxanne Bauer's picture

Each month People, Spaces, Deliberation shares the blog post that generated the most interest and discussion. In August 2016, the featured blog post is "Nudge for good: How insights from behavioral economics can improve the world— and manipulate people" by Roxanne Bauer.

Richard H. Thaler is a world-renowned behavioral economist and professor of finance and psychology. Recently, he was interviewed by The Economist. The discussion covers some of the fundamental studies in the field, like “save more tomorrow” which encourages people to save more by signing up to increase their savings rate every year and auto-enrollment for pensions that have drastically increased employee participation in pension funds.

Thaler also suggests, in the interview, that behavioral economics has the ability to influence human behavior for both good and bad. He argues that much of what behavioral economics does is remove barriers. The goal is not to change people but to make life easier. However, that idea can be skewed by organizations or individuals looking to capitalize on the biases of people. Whenever he is asked to sign a copy of his book Nudge, he writes “nudge for good” which is a plea, he says, to improve the lives of people and avoid insidious behavior.

The list of ways companies nudge behavior is endless, and I would love to hear more examples from you all in the comments section. In the meantime here are a few- I’ll let you judge which ones “nudge for good”:

Nudge for good: How insights from behavioral economics can improve the world— and manipulate people

Roxanne Bauer's picture
Richard H. Thaler is a world-renowned behavioral economist and professor of finance and psychology. Recently, he was interviewed by The Economist. The discussion covers some of the fundamental studies in the field, like “save more tomorrow” which encourages people to save more by signing up to increase their savings rate every year and auto-enrollment for pensions that have drastically increased employee participation in pension funds.

Thaler also suggests, in the interview, that behavioral economics has the ability to influence human behavior for both good and bad. He argues that much of what behavioral economics does is remove barriers. The goal is not to change people but to make life easier, but that idea can be skewed by organizations or individuals looking to capitalize on the biases of people. Whenever he is asked to sign a copy of his book Nudge, he writes “nudge for good” which is a plea, he says, to improve the lives of people and avoid insidious behavior.

The list of ways companies nudge behavior is endless, and I would love to hear more examples from you all in the comments section. In the meantime here are a few- I’ll let you judge which ones “nudge for good”:

#2 from 2015: The things we do: Nudging people to give

Roxanne Bauer's picture
Our Top Ten blog posts by readership in 2015. This post was originally posted on April 7, 2015.
 

Man delivers gas cylinders in IndiaIn an appeal to civic duty, the Government of India is asking citizens to forgo a gas subsidy they receive so that gas cylinders can be transferred to the less fortunate. To encourage Indians to "Give It Up," the government called on business leaders to set an example and made the procedure extremely easy.

India recently launched an ambitious cash transfer program to help small businesses and households buy fuel.  Under the plan, consumers of liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), commonly referred to as propane or butane, receive a cash subsidy in their bank accounts to buy gas cylinders at market price.

Once joining the scheme, the subsidy, which is equal to the difference between the current subsidized rate and the market price, is transferred to the consumer’s bank account when he/she orders a cylinder.  Another transfer is then provided at the time of delivery of the cylinder. 

Last November, the Direct Benefit Transfer Scheme for LPG was rolled out across 54 districts, with the rest of the country participating by January 1 of this year. 

The scheme was launched by India’s previous UPA government in June 2013, but it was abruptly stopped earlier this year following court orders.  It has since been modified to exclude the requirement of providing a unique identification number (Aadhaar) to avail the cash subsidy.

The idea behind the direct benefit transfer is that it can ensure that the subsidy meant for the genuine domestic customer reaches them directly and is not diverted. The Government of India hoped to save millions each year by curbing diversions and leakages in the system but also to ensure efficient delivery of subsidies to the target beneficiaries— the consumers.


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