October 31, 2011
Nudge Pt. 2
At the beginning of the month I included my reading list and asked for recommendations from your own (still waiting on those dear sweet readers...). Included in my list was Cass Sunstein and Richard Thaler's Nudge. I am prone to fits of enthusiasm, but don't let that take anything away from the following statement: I LOVE THIS BOOK! It is informative, interesting, easy to read, and the best part is that you start seeing examples of the "nudge" provided by smart choice architecture in the world beyond the book.
One particularly interesting "story" from the book relates to energy usage. A study of 300 households in California tracked whether the energy consumption was above-average, below-average, or neutral. Once informed of their status, something interesting happened: "In the following weeks, the above-average energy users insignificantly decreased their energy use; the below-average energy users significantly INCREASED their energy use." The book goes on to call the energy consumption increase among the conservative users the "boomerang effect". The book cautions "[i]f you want to nudge people into socially desirable behavior, do not, by any means, let them know that their current actions are better than the social norm."
The same households were then given the same report regarding usage-- above-average, below-average, or neutral but this time with a supporting social cue in the form of a happy face for below-average users and a frown for above-average users.
Unsurprisingly, the above-average users showed an even larger decrease in consumption when given the information plus the social cue. "The most important finding was that when below-average energy users received the happy emotion, the boomerang effect completely disappeared!" When the consumption information was combined with the emotional "nudge" they didn't adjust their usage upward.
This is one of many well-researched, relevant, and interesting examples provided in the book. Whether you've read the book or not, the Nudge Blog is an excellent resource for current articles on and examples of choice architecture.
--Anne Tucker (ps. Happy Halloween!)
October 31, 2011 | Permalink