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Helping people make better choices — Nudge Theory and Choice architecture

The nudge theory

The nudge theory

Behavioral economists show that when humans make quick decisions under pressure, it is based mostly on intuition. They are unconsciously guided by biases and psychological fallacies.

The nudge theory suggests making subtle interventions to nudge people to make certain choices without restricting them. Putting the fruit at eye level counts as a nudge.

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Helping people make better choices — Nudge Theory and Choice architecture

Helping people make better choices — Nudge Theory and Choice architecture

https://medium.com/10x-curiosity/helping-people-make-better-choices-nudge-theory-and-choice-architecture-431a3a40b688

medium.com

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Key Ideas

The nudge theory

Behavioral economists show that when humans make quick decisions under pressure, it is based mostly on intuition. They are unconsciously guided by biases and psychological fallacies.

The nudge theory suggests making subtle interventions to nudge people to make certain choices without restricting them. Putting the fruit at eye level counts as a nudge.

A choice architect

The task of a choice architect is to organize the context in which people make decisions.

Changing the context in which people make choices can make desired behaviors easier to accept.

Intuitive and reflective thinking

  • Intuitive and automatic: This kind of thinking is quick and feels instinctive. You duck when a ball is thrown at you unexpectedly.
  • Reflective and rational: This thinking is deliberate and self-conscious. You use this system when you have to decide which route to take for a trip.

The need for nudge theory: the Japanese example

Japanese train stations use nudge theory.

  • Blue lights improve the mood of commuters and reduce suicide attempts.
  • The door closing jingle lighten the highly stressed peak hour commute.
  • A high-frequency tone at station entrances reduce teenage loitering as the 17kHz can only be heard by people under 25 years.

Why people comply when they are nudged

Biases are hardwired and difficult to change. To change behavior, attention is not paid to countering the problematic thoughts, judgments, or predictions. Instead, it has been directed to changing the behavior in the form of incentives or "nudges."

xample, employers have been able to nudge employees into contributing to retirement plans by making saving the default option; you have to actively take steps to not participate. _

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Position of products influences our decision of buying
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Default decisions and their influence

Although we usually have the freedom to make a wide range of choices at any given moment, we often make decisions based on the environment we find ourselves in:

  • If you sleep with your phone next to your bed, then checking social media and email as soon as you wake up is likely to be the default decision.
  • If you keep a water bottle with you throughout the day, then drinking water rather than soda is more likely to be the default decision.

Optimize for defaultsShift your environment so that the good behaviors are easier and the bad behaviors are harder.

Optimize for defaultsShift your environment so that the good behaviors are easier and the bad behaviors are harder.

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Default choices
Default choices

90% of your daily decisions happen automatically, many shaped by your environment. Thus, most decisions are a habit, not a deliberate choice.

To make smarter choices, design smarter...

Designing your life

Design your life like a choice architect:

  • Encourage smarter decisions you want to do by making them more accessible.
  • Add friction to habits you want to quit, making them less accessible, or remove the option to perform them completely.
Richard Thaler
Richard Thaler

“First, never underestimate the power of inertia. Second, that power can be harnessed.” 

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The decoy effect
The decoy effect

It happens when consumers change their preference between two options when presented with a third option, or decoy.

The decoy is priced to make one of the other options much more attra...

How decoys work

When consumers are faced with many alternatives, they often experience choice overload that increases anxiety and hinders decision-making.

Consumers try to reduce this anxiety by selecting only a couple of criteria (say price and quantity) to determine the best value for money.

A decoy steers you in a particular direction while giving you the impression that you are making a rational, informed choice.

Decoy example in the market

Consider the price of drinks at a well-known juice bar: a small (350 ml) size costs $6.10; the medium (450 ml) $7.10; and the large (610 ml) $7.50. The medium is a slightly better value than the small, and the large better still. The medium is designed to be the decoy, steering you to see the biggest drink as the best value for money.

If you buy the biggest, was it because you made a sensible choice, or have you been manipulated to opt for bigger than intended?

The perfect nudge

Nudging involves gently coaxing someone into a decision or behavior. The successful nudge is one that results in the desired choice or behavior without the person realizing any external influenc...

Multiple systems of the mind

The mind seems to involve various simple systems throughout the body that are not always in agreement. Some systems are shortsighted, some care about relationships, and some prioritize the future of humanity.

We are not always aware of each mechanism. Sometimes we make decisions carefully and other times intuitively.

Nudging methods
  • Highlighting the decisions of others you consider influential. Reading “Most other guests staying at this hotel reuse towels,” may make you feel compelled to align your behavior with the majority.
  • “Injunctive norms” focus on how one should act in a particular situation. “Reusing towels meets a high standard for environmental responsibility,” highlights self-imposed standards. It involves a belief about right and wrong that consider abstract concepts.

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Goal setting
Goal setting

Is the act of selecting a target or objective you wish to achieve.

Goal setting is not only about choosing the rewards you want to enjoy, but also the costs you are willing to pay t...

The Rudders and Oars Metaphor
It helps clarify the difference between SYSTEMS and GOALS:
  • Your goals are like the rudder on a small rowboat. They set the direction and determine where you go. 
  • If you commit to one goal, then the rudder stays put and you continue moving forward. 
  • If you flip-flop between goals, then the rudder moves all around and it is easy to find yourself rowing in circles.
  • If the rudder is your goal, then the oars are your process for achieving it. While the rudder determines your direction, it is the oars that determine your progress.

Example: If you’re a writer, your goal is to write a book. Your system is the writing schedule that you follow each week.

How to Set Goals You'll Actually Follow
  1. Ruthlessly Eliminate Your Goals. Consistently prune and trim down your goals. If you can muster the courage to prune away a few of your goals, then you create the space you need for the remaining goals to fully blossom.
  2. Stack Your Goals. Make a specific plan for when, where and how you will perform this."Networking: After I return from my lunch break, I will send one email to someone I want to meet."
  3. Set an Upper Bound. Don't focus on the minimum threshold. Instead of saying,  “I want to make at least 10 sales calls today.” rather say, “I want to make at least 10 sales calls today, but not more than 20.”

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Biases...
Biases...

... specifically cognitive biases, are your unchecked tendencies to make decisions or take actions in an irrational way. 

Instead of making decisions based on facts and data, you ...

Biases = shortcuts for processing information

The brain creates shortcuts in order to make fast decisions when it hits information or inspiration overload

These shortcuts form unconscious biases so it’s easier for your brain to categorize information and make quick judgments over and over again.

Self-serving Bias
It causes you to claim your successes and ignore your failures. 

This means that when something good happens, you take the credit, but when something bad happens, you blame it on external factors.

Self-serving bias may manifest at work when you receive critical feedback. Instead of keeping an open mind, you may put up a defense when your manager or team member is sharing feedback or constructive criticism.

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Information that matches our beliefs

We surround ourselves with it: We tend to like people who think like us; if we agree with someone's beliefs, we're more likely to be friends with them.

This makes sense, but it means ...

The "swimmer's body illusion"

It's a thinking mistake and it occurs when we confuse selection factors with results. 

Professional swimmers don't have perfect bodies because they train extensively. Rather, they are good swimmers because of their physiques.

The sunk cost fallacy

It plays on this tendency of ours to emphasize loss over gain.

The term sunk cost refers to any cost that has been paid already and cannot be recovered. The reason we can't ignore the cost, even though it's already been paid, is that we're wired to feel loss far more strongly than gain.

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Social norms

People tend to conform to behaviors that are common among other people, even when they know that those people did not make their choices freely, and when the decision does not mirror their own desi...

Common reasons for conforming
  • One common explanation: we that if everyone else is choosing to do one thing, it is probably a good thing to do.
  • Another common explanation: we fear that failing to follow a norm may have negative social consequences.
The self-categorization theory

The idea of the self-categorization theory is that people conform to the norms of certain social groups whenever they have a personal desire to feel like they belong.

It is irrelevant whether a norm reflects people's preference, as long as the behavior is associated with the group.

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The Way We Delude Ourselves
The Way We Delude Ourselves

Cognitive Biases are a collection of faulty and illogical ways of thinking which are hardwired in the brain, most of which we aren’t aware of.

The idea of cognitive biases was invented ...

Hyperbolic Discounting

It's a tendency to heavily weigh the moment which is closer to the present, as compared to something in the near or distant future.

Example: If you are offered a choice of $150 right now or $180 after 30 days, you would be more inclined to choose the money you are offered right now. However, if we take the present moment out of the equation, and put this offer in the distant future, where you are offered $150 in 12 months or $180 in 13 months, your choice is likely to be the latter one.

Common Biases
  • Actor-Observer Bias: the way the explanation of other people’s behaviour tends to focus on the influence of their personality while being less focused on the situation while being just the opposite while explaining one’s own behaviour.
  • Zeigarnik Effect: when something unfinished and incomplete tends to linger in the mind and memory.
  • The IKEA Effect: when our own assembling of an object is placed at a higher value than the other objects.
  • Optimism Bias: makes us underestimate the cost and duration for every project we try to undertake or plan.
  • Availability Bias: makes us believe whatever is more easily available to our consciousness, and is more vivid (or entrenched) in our memory.

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Expected value

We all spend time making decisions with some risk involved. We look at each situation and consider the likelihood that something will happen as well as if it would be worth it.
For example,&...

Calculating the odds

Part of the expected value is estimating the chance or probability of the situation.

Many people have poor judgement calculating real probabilities. They overstate the chance of rare events and underestimate the possibility of common events.

For example, many people don't like to fly on planes because they are scared they might be in a crash, yet the actual chance is close to zero.

The cost or payoff

The cost or payoff is not always clear.

For example, people feel more pain from the loss of a dollar than pleasure from a dollar gained. It is called loss aversion. 

The prospect theory combines the ideas of loss aversion and over- and under-weighing the odds. It helps to calculate the real expected value.

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