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Pushing in a Mud-Filled World

This piece was co-authored by Cait Lamberton, Associate Professor of Business Administration at the Joseph M. Katz School of Business at the University of Pittsburgh , and Benjamin Castleman, Assistant Professor of Education and Public Policy of the Curry School of Education at the University of Virginia.

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On the one hand, the elbows are getting more creative and good, take a recent project in which the researchers encouraged people to think about using a coupon when they saw a foreigner stuffed in a cash register (a distinctive memory signal) or to think about using their coupon when they saw a cash register, an everyday reminder They discovered that the distinctive signal reminded consumers to use a coupon much more effectively than the signal we see every day, such as the cash register itself Send patients low-cost text message reminders that indicate that Accurate economic costs of medical appointments reduce the rates of non-presentation from 11.1% to 8.4% The division of a shopping cart into non-produced "sections" and products increased the purchase of fresh fruits and vegetables of $ 3.95 a $ 8.95 per client.

However, there are cases in which even the beloved nudges, such as social norms and informational guidelines, fail. Wellness programs for employers that often focus on creating a social norm related to weight loss seem to have very small effects and can leave morale more impaired than increasing productivity. It does not always work to provide people with more relevant information: a recent analysis indicates that, in general, providing nutritional information on menus has not significantly reduced calorie consumption in the restaurant, either for adults or children.

Even in successful "pushes", a substantial part of the population seems immune. For example, while the use of filled extraterrestrials as reminders was more effective than using a non-distinctive signal, even so, less than a quarter of the participants used the researchers' coupon, despite the fact that using the coupon would save money to the buyer. Then, even in the best of cases, 75% of the participants were not doing anything in their own interest.

What gets in the way of these pushes?

The problem may be something we call "mud": (1) characteristics of the decision environment or (2) characteristics of the person responsible for making decisions limit the effectiveness of a push. To design more effective interventions, we must address these two sources of sludge. We propose two next generation approaches to take on this task:

  1. Group pushes to increase overall efficiency

Sometimes a single push is not enough.

Say we want to push people to climb the stairs. We decided to use a salience manipulation: we placed a neon arrow on the staircase and left the elevator area unmarked. This makes the ladder jump visually, so it is more likely that we consider the option of climbing stairs in our decision making. As expected, according to the practice of existing thrust, the salience helps: we see a 10% increase in climbing stairs.

But we believe that we can do better than simply increasing the climb of stairs by 10%, and we think we can get there by designing a package of pushes.

What should be in the nudge package? To answer this, we would recommend a "Sludge Audit", where we asked: "What attention barriers, motivational or identity-based can prevent a push from working?" For example, some people may mistakenly believe that the elevator is faster than climbing the stairs and do not want to waste time. We may also find an emotional barrier: people also feel that the stairs are dirty or creepy and, therefore, associate negative emotions with climbing stairs.

This does not mean that we abandon our neon arrow. Instead, we combine our salience signal with representations of the time that people can save using stairs, so that people who want to be the most efficient can see virtue when making the climb. We can also install better lighting or play happy music on the stairs, replacing previous negative affective associations with the best ones. These "grouped pushes" may cost a bit more than the simple neon arrow, but they are likely to be much more effective, since they explain the multiple factors that impede the desired behavior.

  • Personalizing elbows to individual goals and challenges
  • To date, the elbow has been very much a unique game for everyone. But technology and data science allow us to increasingly personalize nudges to people based on their circumstances and even depending on their response or commitment to previous nudges or information.

    • We know that defaults in charity letters can cause donations, in a study that increases the proportion of people who donate to a charity from 19% to 81%. However, some research suggests that noncompliance does not always increase the aggregate donation amounts received by charities, as it prompts some potential donors who would otherwise have given more generously to link their donations to a lower predetermined amount. So, could it make sense to customize the default values? For example, a charitable donor may be assigned predetermined values ​​calibrated to his or her previous personal contribution plus 5%, rather than the same predetermined categories that all donors present themselves with. Could this push to give a little higher than a familiar benchmark be more successful than a push that does not recognize the level of giving that the individual felt comfortable in the past?
  • Past nudges at grocery stores used green arrows to guide buyers to the product section. But, what if a father can not spend precious time fighting traffic in a crowded production area? Could stores maintain prominent green arrows for most consumers, but also offer an alternative speed shopper red floor arrow system? These smaller arrows could be used to help the speed-oriented segment of buyers find the healthiest options possible in a range of product categories, while reducing their time in the store.
  • Sometimes we need a strategic push-up. Take the financial aid application, for example. For some students, completing the application is just an onerous task they are putting off, so a simple text message reminder may be enough to ask them to complete the forms. But for other students with more complicated financial circumstances, the support of a financial aid advisor can be critical. The creation of push systems that can dynamically scale people to different types and intensities of intervention can be more effective than applying a single push strategy to the entire population.
  • Beyond allowing us to develop more effective interventions, these approaches can illuminate decisions that are truly insurmountable, even taking into account our most complete efforts. In these cases, it makes sense to lobby for more costly interventions, profound changes in attitude and policy work, a push to remind us that not all major policy problems have simple, low-cost solutions.

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