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Nudge: Improving Decisions about Health, Wealth, and Happiness (Inglês) Capa Comum – 28 fev 2009
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Cass R. Sunstein is the Robert Walmsley University Professor at Harvard Law School, where he is the founder and director of the Program on Behavioral Economics and Public Policy. He is by far the most cited law professor in the United States. From 2009 to 2012 he served in the Obama administration as Administrator of the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs. He has testified before congressional committees, appeared on national television and radio shows, been involved in constitution-making and law reform activities in a number of nations, and written many articles and books, including Simpler: The Future of Government and Wiser: Getting Beyond Groupthink to Make Groups Smarter.
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- The design of menus gets you to eat (and spend) more. For example, lining up all prices on either side of the menu leads many consumers to simply pick the cheapest item. On the other hand, discretely listing prices at the end of food descriptions lets people read about the appetizing options first…; and then see prices.
- "Flies" in urinals improve, well, aim. When Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport was faced with the not uncommon issue of dirty urinals, they chose a unique solution: by painting "flies" in the (center of) commodes, men obligingly aimed at the insects, reducing spillage by 80 percent.
- Credit card minimum payments affect repayment schedules. Among those who only partially pay off credit card balances each month, the repayment level is correlated with the card's minimum payment — in other words, the lower the minimum payment, the longer it takes a consumer to pay off the card balance.
- Automatic savings programs increase savings rate. All over the country, companies are adopting the Save More Tomorrow program: firms offer employees who are not saving very much the option of joining a program in which their saving rates are automatically increased whenever they get a raise. This plan has more than tripled saving rates in some firms, and is now offered by thousands of employers.
- "Defaults" can improve rates of organ donation. In the United States, about one–third of citizens have signed organ donor cards. Compare this to Austria, where 99 percent of people are potential organ donors. One obvious difference? Americans must explicitly consent to become organ donors (by signing forms, for example) while Austrians must opt out if they do not want to be organ donors.
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It contains an interesting chapter on the various psychological factors that influence decision making. (I had, in fact, just read before this Prof Thaler's book on 'Misbehaving', which provides a more detailed study of the factors.)
Some of the subjects, e.g. saving for retirement, mortgage, organ donation, are covered in detail with insightful recommendations. Other subjects, e.g. credit cards and privatisation of social security, are touched upon only briefly and rather superficially.
In all, an interesting read.
To the content itself, I was right there with the author for the first 2/3 of the book. Suddenly, it's as if they did an author switch and didn't bother to read the first half that they had already written. Many of the ideas surrounding NUDGE are the use of default options, mandatory choice and other helpful decision-making tools to improve outcomes. These tools are based on harnessing System 1 thinking (intuitive thinking) or by using the laziness of System 2 (rational) thinking. This worked very well on issues such as 401(k) contributions, organ donations and investment choices. However, when pulled into the context of environmental issues and school choice, it is logically inconsistent to assume that humans will suddenly become econs on these issues.
Specifically, corporations are unlikely to be motivated to change their environmental records based on a government blacklist. Most people would not bother to find the list, let alone read it. And corporations would not see the list as an environmental nudge so much as a publicity nudge. It is cheaper to launch ad campaigns to promote the idea that you are a responsible corporation than it is to actually be a responsible corporation. As a test case, consider BP. They had a very successful ad campaign touting their environmental responsibility. Yet, they were responsible for a massive spill that was largely due to irresponsibility. This nudge will likely turn into a publicity war, not an environmental movement.
Next school choice is hardly as simple as test scores. Test scores are a greater reflection of the neighborhoods the schools are in and not the methods of teaching. The best teachers in the world have extremely low odds of turning a low-performing district into a average one. It's far too complex a system to pin success to one variable. Nevertheless, even if test scores are indicative of better schools, this would undoubtedly become another publicity issue. In order to attract dollars (students), ambitious schools would tout all sorts of nonsense to attract students in order to maximize revenue. Spending would have to be cut in order to meet their new advertising budgets. It again, becomes a publicity issue. Assuming that consumers would suddenly start making rational decisions about their kids is divorced from reality and divorced from the first part of the book.
In spite of my disappointment, I enjoyed the book and thought it had many good ideas that I plan to implement into my business as I deal with my clients. But you can effectively throw out the entire last part of the book and lose nothing. In fact, the text would be improved with such an omission.
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