Tricking People into Doing the Right Thing

Posted by Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein

Anyone who has studied psychology knows just how puzzling human behavior can be. Busy people are trying to cope in a complex world, and this means they simply cannot afford to think deeply about every choice they have to make. The bottom line is that people are, shall we say, nudge-able. With subtle hints, you can convince them to do things they otherwise might not be able to do for themselves. And we think private and public institutions ought to offer carefully planned nudges-designing choices that are less heavy-handed and more effective than mandates and bans.Here are a few possibilities:Quit smoking without a patch. Committed Action to Reduce and End Smoking is a savings program offered by the Green Bank of Caraga in Mindanao, Philippines. A would-be nonsmoker opens an account with a minimum balance of one dollar. For six months, the client deposits the amount of money she would otherwise spend on cigarettes into the account. After six months, the client takes a urine test to confirm that she has not smoked recently. If she passes the test, she gets her money back. If she fails the test, the account is closed and the money is donated to a charity. MIT's Poverty Action Lab found that opening up an account makes those who want to quit 53 percent more likely to achieve their goal. No other antismoking tactic, not even the nicotine patch, appears to be so successful.Stop compulsive gambling. Over the past decade, several states, including Illinois, Indiana, and Missouri, have enacted laws enabling gambling addicts to put themselves on a list that bans them from entering casinos or collecting gambling winnings. The underlying thought is that many people who have self-control problems are aware of their shortcomings and want to overcome them. Sometimes recreational gamblers can do this on their own or with their friends; sometimes private institutions can help them. But addicted gamblers might do best if they have a way to enlist the support of the state.

Quote:
Disulfiram causes alcohol drinkers to throw up and suffer a hangover as soon as they start to drink.
Dollar a day. Teenage pregnancy is a serious problem, and girls who have one child, at, say, 18, often become pregnant again within a year or two. Several cities, including Greensboro, North Carolina, have experimented with a "dollar-a-day" program, by which teenage girls with a baby receive a dollar for each day that they are not pregnant. Thus far the results have been extremely promising. A dollar a day is a trivial amount to the city, even for a year or two, so the plan's total cost is extremely low, but the small recurring payment is just enough to encourage some teenage mothers to take steps to avoid getting pregnant again. And because taxpayers end up paying a significant amount for many children born to teenagers, the costs appear to be far less than the benefits. Many people are touting "dollar a day" as a model program.No Bite? No Drink. Those who want to stop biting their nails can buy bitter nail polishes such as Mavala Stop and Orly No Bite. A more extreme version of this concept is a drug called Disulfiram, which is given to some alcoholics. Disulfiram causes alcohol drinkers to throw up and suffer a hangover as soon as they start to drink. For some people suffering from chronic alcoholism, Disulfiram has had a strong and positive effect as part of a treatment program.Stop men from peeing on the floor. Authorities at Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam have etched the image of a black housefly into each urinal. It seems that men usually do not pay much attention to where they aim, which can create a bit of a mess. But if you give them a target, they can't help but try to hit it. Similar designs have been implemented in urinals around the world, including mini soccer goals, bulls-eyes, and urine video games (seriously). Do they work? Since the bugs were etched into the airport urinals, spillage has decreased by 80 percent.