Serendip is an independent site partnering with faculty at multiple colleges and universities around the world. Happy exploring!

Notes Towards Day 11: "Nudge"

Nudging Our Way Towards Day 11, Food for Thought

I. coursekeeping
clarifying conference schedule (w/ break)
Thursday's class: "Caterpillars Make Choices," with Wil Franklin

By classtime on Thursday, post on-line
1) the 5 questions you will use in your survey
2) a description of your subject group
spend some time thinking about how to ask your questions
so you can put a value on the answers (for ex: use a scale, 1-5)

those of you who will be gathering mostly "qualitative" data,
(i.e. interviewing counselors, coaches, deans) can still
think about how to ask questions so you might (for ex) graph trends

IOW: as you design your survey, think about
how you will present the data.

Instead of writing a paper this week:

A. By 5 p.m. on Friday, send me by e-mail a midterm self-evaluation:
what have you learned about your writing (and thinking) habits?
What changes have you seen? What still needs working on?
What's improved/needs improving? What should you be attending to?
Write also about your study habits:
how much time/energy you are putting into these papers?

B. By 5 p.m. on Monday, Oct. 20  (yes, you get an extension!)
post on-line the results of your data you've gathered
1. create a graph in excel
2. save as picture (control click on the chart to get this option)
3. log on to serendip; go to new forum and post a comment
4. click on "upload image" and browse for the one you've created

The week after break, we'll take a day
to present this material to one another in class...

II. more brainstorming how to go about this?

III. two papers on exercising: where do they intersect?
do they suggest research agendas for one another?
(can you imagine introducing nudges....?)
think about your surveys as nudges???

IV. "Nudge": the Argument and the Application
work of Richard Thaler (economist)/Cass Sunstein (legal scholar)
is very congruent with that of Barry Schwartz (psychologist)

Thaler is often named as the founder of behavioral economics:
"our brains didn't really evolve to calculate the probabilities and
make the cold comparisons that economic rationality demands.
We've developed cognitive rules of thumb to make sense of them,
but those shortcuts don't always work."

"The thinking problems come from the fact that we have a slow,
erratic CPU and the fact that we're busy," says Thaler. "So we
try to rationally cope with that . . . but we cope in imperfect ways."

"Simply giving people more choices, therefore - whether it's among
healthcare plans, pension plans, or schools - is no assurance that
they'll make the best choice."

From The Boston Globe:
"I think it's a massively important idea," says Barry Schwartz,
a psychology professor at Swarthmore College who looks at economic behavior.
"It's hard to imagine a context in which it's not relevant."

Seeing what sense we make of this....
Beginning with our Biases and Blunders:
Shepherd's "Turning the Tables"

Two kinds of thinking:
intuitive/automatic/gut and

biases associated w/ three rules of thumb/heuristics:
(typically insufficient adjustments)
availability (accessibility, salience, how readily exs. come to mind)
(similarity/stereotypes/imagining causal patterns)
optimism, overconfidence
loss aversion, status quo bias, lack of attention
framing effects
(how problems are stated)

choice architect: responsible for organizing the context in which ppl. make decisions
there is no such thing as a "neutral" design: "everything matters"--paralyzing? empowering?
libertarian paternalism: self-conscious efforts to steer ppl's choices in directions
that will improve their lives (as judged by themselves--
imagining full attention, complete information, unlimited cognitive abilities and complete self-control!)
--while preserving their liberty
cf. homo economicus (who chooses unfailingly well) & homo sapiens (who predictably err:
i.e. systematic tendency toward unrealistic optimism about time to complete projects;
status quo bias--inertia/sticking w/ default option)
ordinary consumers are novices in many areas, lacking experience, good information, prompt feedback

[Privitizing Marriage: decouple material and symbolic benefits
now easily dissolvable, no solution to self-control problem
self-serving bias: nudge toward smaller range of expected outcomes
allow wide range of experiments]

Objections: slippery slope reduced: creates freedom
"sunshine the best of disinfectants": transparency
it's all right to be wrong:
How much learning is good for people?
not all redistribution is illegitimate:
trade-offs beween protecting the unfortunate & encouraging initiative, self-help
more concern for liberty, free choice than welfare?
insidious subliminal advertising?
"the publicity principle": gov't banned from policy it could not defend publicly/respectfully
manipulation objectionable if invisible, impossible to monitor
neutrality sometimes feasible, important: potential for beneficial nudging
asymmetric paternalism: help less sophisticated, pose smallest cost on most
"cooling off periods" to deal w/ self-control problems
when is a nudge a shove?

Applying these ideas to our (past and future) lives:
1. Write? Then Go 'round and describe a
time when you have been "nudged."
Was it justified? Appropriate?
Were you resentful? Grateful?

2. Get into groups based on your shared topics

(i.e.: sleep, mental health, exercise...?)
design a "nudge" that would help students choose more wisely
than they do do you feel about doing this?