Nudgespotting: Buying a Nudge


These three innovative products leverage behavioral science to help us keep some of our most precious resources –- money, ideas, and energy –- from slipping away from us.



Ah, the relief of the first sip of your morning coffee. With a swipe of your credit card, you have a cup of joe in your hands and the stress melts away. But while credit cards have made it easy for us to spend $4 on a coffee, they’ve made it harder to immediately realize that our wallets are lighter. Just think about how many times a month you get a coffee on your way to work; before you know it, you can be almost $100 down. 

Research has shown that paying with cash makes people more mindful of how much they spend because giving up physical bills is more psychologically painful than mindlessly swiping a credit card. But on the other hand, credit cards are much more convenient than carrying around a fat wallet full of cash. Luckily, Scrip may offer a solution: by requiring you to swipe your thumb over the device (as if you are counting cash) and showing you your new balance, it helps to mimic the psychological pain of cash transactions.

Scrip makes using your credit card a bit more like spending cash. [image]

And because it’s difficult to part with cash, people often feel more connected to an object when they use cash rather than a credit card. So maybe that first sip of coffee will be even tastier with Scrip.



Humans are forgetful. Our prospective memory, the name for the memory we use to recall actions that we need to complete in the future, often fails us. If you’re like me and do a lot of your best thinking in the shower, this poses a problem. While "shower thinking" leads to most of my eureka moments, I never have a way to record them. And once I’m out of the shower, I’m rushing out the door. My idea is lost, perhaps forever.

Enter Aqua Notes, a waterproof notepad that uses suction cups to attach to your shower wall. Instead of taking a chance with my prospective memory, I’m able to record my ideas in the moment before they get washed away.

Can Aqua Notes help prevent prospective memory failure? [image]



If you leave your phone plugged in after it's fully charged, it can turn into a vampire. Well, not exactly. But it can continue to suck a significant amount of power – dubbed “vampire power” – that takes a toll on the environment. According to the Department of Energy, one fourth of the power consumed by home electronics is done so while they are turned off. A fully charged cell phone still plugged into the wall can consume 60% of the power it consumed while charging. For a laptop, that number goes up to 66%.

Could a cord that visualizes the the flow of electricity help us use less? [image]

Could a cord that visualizes the the flow of electricity help us use less? [image]

In order to make this sort of electricity consumption more salient, this phone charger visualizes the electricity flowing into your phone. When it stops flowing, the phone is fully charged, and its time to unplug. But will users react when the charger stops lighting up? Or would it be more effective if the charger lit up once the phone finished charging, giving a clear signal it’s time for you to unplug?

Readers, what do you think? And do you know of any other behaviorally-informed products that can help us improve our daily lives?

Why Your Lazy Colleague Gets Under Your Skin


Imagine you have an office job in New York City. You’ve been working at this firm for five years and know how the office works. The cubicle to your right is occupied by Joshua. Joshua’s been around a while, but you don’t understand how he still has a job. The guy’s a total slacker. Meanwhile, the cubicle to your left has been vacant for a while -- that is until Ellen, fresh out of business school and eager to prove herself, shows up. She’s a star -- she gets more done in a day than you do in two. Your boss comes in and assigns you to work on two different projects, one with Ellen and the other with Joshua. You notice that when you work with Ellen, you feel more productive than when you work with Joshua. Actually, working with Joshua starts to really frustrate you, and you think about reporting him to your boss.  

Nudgespotting: Getting Active in D.C.


Almost everyone appreciates the benefits of exercise, especially when it's time to make New Year’s resolutions. But incorporating exercise into your busy schedule isn’t always as easy as it looks on the Lulu Lemon commercials. In fact, in 2015 only 20.9% of adults over 18 met the federal physical activity guidelines. Even when we do intend to exercise, we often find ourselves feeling like it’s not worth the trouble or being tempted into a happy hour instead.

The good news is behavioral science can help. Here are some Washington, D.C. behavioral science insights in action that have helped others -- and myself -- get active.

Mad at Nate Silver About Election 2016? Why Behavioral Economics Suggests You Shouldn't Be


For many, the aftermath of Donald Trump’s election has raised questions about the future of the United States. It has also led some to cast aspersions on analysts like Nate Silver, who used statistical models and polling data to make probabilistic predictions about the election’s outcome. Because these models consistently favored Hillary Clinton, and often heavily so (Nate Silver predicted that Clinton had a 71.4% chance of winning, and other estimates were as high as 99%), some have accused these poll analysts of ignorance or bias. Research suggests, however, that it may be the critics, and not the statheads, who are suffering from a bias -- more specifically, “outcome bias,” whereby we have a tendency to overweight the outcome of a decision (or model) when assessing its ex-ante quality.

Nudgespotting: #NudgeTheVote


As you may have heard, there is an election coming up. Cable news, social media, and water cooler chatter have all been dominated by political discussion and debate. However, all of this apparent excitement and intention to vote may not necessarily translate into high levels of voter registration and turnout on Election Day. People may forget to register by their state deadline, or the hassle of filling out and sending registration paperwork may cause them to put it off indefinitely. Even those who have gone through the effort of registering to vote may not show up on Election Day if they have not planned enough time into their day to wait in the long lines at polling places. Campaigns, civic engagement groups, civic-minded organizations, and even private companies are using strategies informed by behavioral science to help overcome this intention-action gap and get people registered and to the polls. Here are three behaviorally informed examples of these strategies I’ve recently spotted.

The Power of Certainty: How Behavioral Economics Helps Us Understand the "Trump Tape"


By now, pretty much everyone in America knows about the tape of Donald Trump saying lewd things about women while on an Access Hollywood bus in 2005. The recording has had a seismic effect on the presidential campaign, and has triggered an important conversation about sexual assault. The backlash is, on the one hand, completely understandable. But some are wondering – why are we so surprised? Based on his public statements, isn’t it clear that Donald Trump is capable of saying things like this in private? Perhaps behavioral economics can help explain why we were so collectively shocked.

Interview with Richard Thaler: Part 3 of 3


In the third and final part of their interview, Richard Thaler and Syon Bhanot delve into the replicability problem in psychology, whether behavioral economics needs to focus on "bigger problems," and close with a lightning round on topics such as the underrepresentation of women in economics, boring conferences, and which economist is the best golfer.

Check out part 1 and part 2 as well!

Does the Gambler's Fallacy Appear in Real-World, High-Stakes Decision Making?


Sitting in the waiting room at the dentist’s office, you feel some spare change clang around in your pocket. With nothing better to do, you decide to give a coin a few flips to see what happens. After tossing it into the air and clapping it onto the back of your hand five times, you record the following results: THTHT. Unamused by such reasonableness, you give it another go, flipping the coin another five times. This time, your eyes grow wide in response to the wildly different results: TTTTT. What are the odds?