a gentle nudge

Okay, I know that recently I’ve  been stressing the importance of larger changes in behavior to really get us toward serious energy & dollar savings, but I have to tell you… this book, Nudge: Improving Decisions about Health, Wealth, and Happiness, sounds pretty fun.

While Richard Thaler addresses all sorts of decision-making in the book, people are doing really fun things applying all of his thought to our decisions about energy. When my professor directed us toward this CNN article, I knew I had to share it here. (I mean, really, Muhyeon Kim’s outlets? Add that to the list of reasons I’d rather be living in Europe.)

People are making energy saving fun, entertaining & beautiful. Even if you don’t speak Dutch, take a closer look at De Film. What does it take to make people opt for the stairs over the elevator? A simple visual cue.

Now, I’m almost interested enough to teach myself Dutch cso that I can understand what the somewhat awkwardly titled “Seduction Project” is all about.

In my last post, I asked what it would take for each of us to change things. Lots of people (from your neighbor to policy makers to behavioral psychologists) seem to be answering that question in a similar way: Compare me to my peers. Bring out a bit of that sense of community & competitiveness, & I may be willing to re-evaluate what I’m doing.*

Knowing how other people behave is often a potent determinant of our own actions. Energy bills that inform users of how they compare with those on the same street or neighborhood are currently being trialled in parts of the UK, says Halpern.

“When you get a bill with a long list of numbers, it’s unlikely to mean very much to you. But if you see you’re using much more than your next door neighbor, let’s say, it suddenly becomes personal.”

Are these nudges enough to change policy & put us back on track? Many say no, but they could be a start to conditioning the general population to a more sustainable future.


About meganbetz

human geography PhD Student at Indiana University; wife, reader, writer, baker, gardener
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2 Responses to a gentle nudge

  1. Scott says:

    I think there’s something about the lines and footprints that appeals to a baser emotion for most people. There is a deep impulse to follow a line to see where it goes. This is unscientific speculation, but I bet that it activates the same area of a person’s brain that is activated by penciling in the enclosed areas of printed letters. Imagine a whole floor that is designed as varying strips of contrast that flow straight until they come to a door or stairwell at which point they smoothly turn and “flow” into the door or stairs. Now imagine that these lines “ignore” the door for the elevator continuing right past it without making the flowing turn into it.

    Now experience the cognitive dissonance that you might experience if you chose to stop and wait for the elevator. For one your are no long following the flow of the floor, but beyond that you are now a visual obstruction to the movement that people’s eyes take along the pattern of the floor as well. Both of these are good reasons why I would take the “more comfortable” route of the stairs instead.

    Build this into the design of a building and you’ve just created a great antecedent intervention for saving energy.

    • meganbetz says:

      Haha. I love it; I love that you actually took the time to explain the video that I just slapped up here. Thanks for reading & for leaving quality comments, Scott!

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