Piano steps for fighting obesity


Victoria, Australia, steps up to the Obesity challenge

A quick report from Victoria Australia, where we are working with VicHealth, before heading back to London tomorrow. The Australians have often led the world on public health measures, so it’s pretty cool to be working with them for the next 2 years, with a special focus on obesity – seen by some as the Mount Everest of contemporary behavioural challenges, and one that virtually all industrialised nations are wrestling with. First, an interesting result. Many people have sent me links to the ‘fun theory’ piano steps over the years (http://www.thefuntheory.com/piano-staircase). It is indeed a fun intervention – steps leading into the underground converted into giant keyboard that plays notes as people stand on it, with an increase of 66% of people using the stairs in a day. ….[READ]

Pros and cons of Nudge


Budge up nudge- Policy Fashions and the demise of an intervention

There are few more important political issues of the 21st century than the making of arrangements to deal with the environmental consequences of global consumption patterns. Assessing the dimensions and scale of the problem and identifying strategies for dealing with it provides social science with one of its major challenges. Social science’s duty to understand impartially the social world sits uneasily with the imperatives of democratic political direction. Yet it would be hard to claim that social sciences have no obligation to contribute to the design of interventions that might make the world better fit to deliver human well-being. So, when social scientific theories – especially ones other than orthodox Economics – come to play a significant role on the public stage, disciplines should sit up and take notice. That may be particularly the case, at least from the point of view of a sociologist like myself who takes the view that recent analysis has largely lost sight of the social aspects of human conduct. The book by Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein, Nudge: improving decisions about health, wealth and happiness, was published by Yale University Press in 2008. …[READ]

Information is money


If Greed Is Good, Why Is Insider Trading Bad?

Last week’s sentencing of Mathew Martoma for insider trading may signal the end of the SEC’s efforts to bring down his former boss, Steven A. Cohen, but it will almost certainly guarantee another round of debate over the legal regime that has sent Martoma behind bars for the next nine years. Like other laws that attempt to maintain a spirit of equity, insider trading is a legal distinction that rests on a moral misgiving. It identifies a way of gaining information for a financial transaction that seems (there is no better word for it) unfair. In the case of Martoma, his crime was convincing doctors to provide him confidential information about drug trials involving two companies in which SAC Capital, the hedge fund he worked for, had made a $700 million investment. A day after he passed along the information to Cohen, SAC’s founder, the fund began selling its shares in both companies before the information became public, allowing it to avoid losses and book profits totaling $275 million. ….[READ]

Gaming is better than monetary incentives

Energy-saving tips

Experiment makes energy savings a game

Let’s face it: We’re energy hogs. We want more light, we flip a switch. If we’re hot, we crank up the AC, without a second thought on the power grid strain. It’s what economists call inelastic demand – the resource is widely sought and always available, and there’s little motivation to conserve. Meanwhile, the expansion of electricity transmission and generation capacity, even with increases in renewable energy sources, hasn’t kept pace with demand. As the U.S. power grid operates closer to its capacity, spikes in demand can lead to tremendous cost increases. Cornell researchers are tackling this issue with a behavioral economics-based twist. Led by Eilyan Bitar, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering, an experiment in partnership with Consolidated Edison Inc. this summer has shown that consumers might be willing to back off of demand if there’s a game of chance involved. ….[READ]


Voters predict better than pollsters


Scotland’s ‘No’ Vote: A Loss for Pollsters and a Win for Betting Markets

Thursday’s Scottish referendum was interesting not just for what it said about Britain, but also for what it said about the state of political forecasting. I’m calling it a loss not only for the pro-independence movement — the “No” campaign won 55.3 percent of the vote — but also for the pollsters. To be fair, I should start by acknowledging that most of the election-eve polls correctly predicted a majority No vote, but they all underestimated the margin, and many missed by quite a lot. The polls were volatile; they often gave conflicting signals; and it took them until the last few weeks to even start to suspect that this would be a close race. The major polls in the past week ranged from a 6-point lead for the Yes vote to a 7-point lead for the No vote. And this wide range wasn’t because of wild fluctuations in public opinion. It was the result of two surveys that were taken within a day of each other. ….[READ]

What is your very own “Sheep” in-group?


The psychology behind Apple’s obsessive ‘iSheep’ fans

The reputation of Apple’s fans is as well known as Apple’s products. These are the people who have already started lining up outside Apple stores, just to be first to own the latest iPhone due to go on sale this Friday. When they are not in line, they scour the Internet for articles that affirm their belief in Apple’s products, reacting swiftly to articles and comments from those that don’t share their views, principally anyone who uses a different phone. These are among the most loyal customers of any brand and are often insultingly referred to as “iSheep” for their seemingly unquestioning following of Apple. In fact, in a survey earlier this year, 78 percent of iPhone users “couldn’t imagine having a different type of phone.” ….[READ]

The illusion of progress motivates


How to Trick Yourself into Making Real Progress

Progress motivates like no other method. Thanks to rigorous research by Harvard Business School professor Teresa Amabile and psychologist Steven Kramer, authors of the aptly titled The Progress Principle, we know that it’s not money, fame, or fear that drives us to do our best work. Instead, it’s making progress on meaningful work that’s key for staying motivated, productive, and creative. Even small steps count. Events and experiences that seem trivial or take mere minutes help to build that sense of progress, whether it’s having a constructive chat with a coworker about how your project’s going, a particularly positive customer interaction, or fixing a paragraph in your report. Progress is so alluring that even the illusion of forward steps increases your drive — which means you might not be taking full advantage of how progress motivates to kick-start your productivity. ….[READ]