How to nudge people to vote

Using a lottery to incentivise voter registration

The results of work on voter registration, led by UCL’s Professor Peter John and supported by the Behavioural Insights Team have been published in the journal Electoral Studies. This paper reports the results of a randomised controlled trial in a London borough. In order to vote in the UK, you need to register in advance. Voter registration is therefore important, as failure to register can lead residents to become effectively disenfranchised. Registration also helps to prevent fraud, and can improve residents’ credit ratings as registration details are often used in credit checks. ….[READ]


How politicians judge nudge

The Curious Politics of the ‘Nudge’

How do we really feel about policy “nudges”? Earlier this month, President Obama signed an executive order directing federal agencies to collaborate with the White House’s new Social and Behavioral Sciences Team to use insights from behavioral science research to better serve the American people. For instance, studies show that people are more likely to save for retirement when they are automatically enrolled into a 401(k) retirement saving plan that they can opt out of than when they must actively opt in. The idea behind Mr. Obama’s initiative is that such soft-touch interventions, or “nudges,” can facilitate better decisions without resorting to heavier-handed strategies like mandates, taxes and bans. ….[READ]


The strange effect of bank robberies

Crime and leniency

“You can’t rob a bank on charm and personality,” noted Willy Sutton, the prolific American criminal whose tool of choice was a Tommy gun. No matter how likeable the larcenist, a stickup is invariably an unpleasant experience for employees. According to a new paper* by Paola Acevedo of Tilburg University and Steven Ongena of the University of Zurich, the trauma affects how bankers subsequently do business. The authors look at bank lending after heists in Colombia, a country where 835 bank robberies took place between 2003 and 2011. They find that loan officers treat would-be borrowers differently in the aftermath of an armed robbery. ….[READ]


Trust and oxytocin again

More Doubts Over The Oxytocin And Trust Theory

The claim that the hormone oxytocin promotes trust in humans has drawn a lot of attention. But today, a group of researchers reported that they’ve been unable to reproduce their own findings concerning that effect. The new paper, in PLoS ONE, is by Anthony Lane and colleagues from Louvain in Belgium. The same team have previously published evidence supporting the link between oxytocin and trust. Back in 2010 they reported that “oxytocin increases trust when confidential information is in the balance”. An intranasal spray of oxytocin made volunteers more likely to leave a sensitive personal document lying around in an open envelope, rather than sealing it up, suggesting that they trusted people not to peek at it. ….[READ]


Why do you share what you do?

What neuroscience and psychology can teach us about shareable content

What makes you stop scrolling through an article, open up a social media app and hit the share button? Is it logic, emotion, or something else? Turns out, there’s more to social sharing than just measuring metrics: Psychology. The strange nature of our brains is the reason we hotly debate the color of a dress or why we freely and emotionally share a post by a grieving widow after the death of her husband or why we feel an urgent need to pass on that video of the ice-cream eating dog to our animal-loving father-in-law. (Guilty!) It’s not logic that guides those shares; it’s emotion. ….[READ]


Are punishment and morality independent?

How your brain decides blame and punishment—and how it can be changed

Juries in criminal cases typically decide if someone is guilty, then a judge determines a suitable level of punishment. New research confirms that these two separate assessments of guilt and punishment – though related — are calculated in different parts of the brain. In fact, researchers found that they can disrupt and change one decision without affecting the other. New work by researchers at Vanderbilt University and Harvard University confirms that a specific area of the brain, the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, is crucial to punishment decisions. Researchers predicted and found that by altering brain activity in this brain area, they could change how subjects punished hypothetical defendants without changing the amount of blame placed on the defendants. ….[READ]


How to have global appeal

Globalize, Don’t Localize: Three Ways To Properly Ignore Boundaries

A hipster in New York is not that different from a hipster in Bangalore. Ten years ago, this would not have been the case. What’s changed? With the proliferation of the Internet, smartphones and social media, information dissemination has never been more efficient than it is today. Our marketing textbooks tell us that the highest classes of society in any given region have similar tastes and habits, but that habits then start to disseminate based on surroundings. Today, with Internet access expanding to the far corners of the world, those tastes are converging, and users are becoming increasingly savvy about what’s available to them. What does this mass homogenization of habits mean to businesses? ….[READ]