How Long Does It Take to Get to Tatooine? On an early autumn morning in 2009, Randall Munroe, a NASA physicist turned full-time cartoonist, was teaching a weekend physics class to high-school students in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The course was part of an M.I.T. program designed to introduce students to topics ranging from sculpture and ancient Greek to geoengineering. Though Munroe’s lecture that day had the lively title “Solar Panels, Hand Grenades, and Blowing Up the Moon: How to Think About Energy,” for the first hour and a half he adhered to a fairly standard lecture format. What is energy? What … Continue reading How to incentivize curiosity
A School Lunch Tray Redesign to Trick Kids Into Making Healthy Choices The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation had been collaborating with an innovative food-service director who was preparing to buy new trays for her school district in St. Paul, Minnesota. Familiar with my book Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think, they wondered if the book’s principles could be used to get kids to mindlessly eat better by redesigning a healthier lunch tray. Coincidentally, we had started down this road a year earlier, but the unfortunate reality of lunch trays is that they’re rapidly being replaced with the … Continue reading Nudging for school lunch
Exposing Hidden Bias at Google Google, like many tech companies, is a man’s world. Started by a pair of men, its executive team is overwhelmingly male, and its work force is dominated by men. Over all, seven out of 10 people who work at Google are male. Men make up 83 percent of Google’s engineering employees and 79 percent of its managers. In a report to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission last year, Google said that of its 36 executives and top-ranking managers, just three are women. Google’s leaders say they are unhappy about the firm’s poor gender diversity, and … Continue reading How unconscious biases shape workplace culture
Pliny the Elder: A case study in scarcity marketing Pliny the Elder was the Roman naturalist credited with first identifying hops. Pliny the Elder is also a beer, and, today, a case study in “scarcity marketing,” said Natalie Cilurzo, the co-owner of Russian River Brewing Company. “We don’t do any advertising,” Cilurzo said. “As far as our marketing, I blog very infrequently on our website. We have a Facebook page, I try to post like once a week… maybe.” Despite the sparse marketing, demand for Russian River’s signature beer couldn’t be greater. Cilurzo says on weekends, their brew pub in … Continue reading Scarcity bias is physiological
To Change Employee or Customer Behavior, Start Small Across industries, organizations can greatly benefit from making tiny changes in their processes to take into account how employees and customers really behave — including not liking being told what to do. Our research and that of others has discovered that even some small tweaks can have a big impact. For example, consider what Google does in its cafeterias to encourage employees to adopt healthier eating habits. When “Googlers” reach for a plate, they encounter a sign informing them that people with bigger plates are inclined to eat more than those with … Continue reading Is nudge a kind of fine tuning?
Why Girls Tend to Get Better Grades Than Boys Do As the new school year ramps up, teachers and parents need to be reminded of a well-kept secret: Across all grade levels and academic subjects, girls earn higher grades than boys. Not just in the United States, but across the globe, in countries as far afield as Norway and Hong Kong. This finding is reflected in a recent study by psychology professors Daniel and Susan Voyer at the University of New Brunswick. The Voyers based their results on a meta-analysis of 369 studies involving the academic grades of over one … Continue reading Do women learn differently?
Should Policy Makers and Financial Institutions Have Access to Billions of Brain Scans? Let’s pretend that scientists have discovered a neural biomarker that could accurately predict a person’s propensity to take financial risks in a lottery. Would it be ethical to release this information to policy makers? That seems to be the conclusion of a new paper published in the Journal of Neuroscience (Gilaie-Dotan et al., 2014): The results will also provide a simple measurement of risk attitudes that could be easily extracted from abundance of existing medical brain scans, and could potentially provide a characteristic distribution of these attitudes … Continue reading What if brain imaging could predict economic choices?