A Nudge to control human’s behavior
Consumption of bottled water is increasing worldwide, which has also increased water wasting. Influenced by Nudge written by Thaler& Sunstein, I studyone nudge that might reduce the waste of bottled water. I collected this data through an experiment conducted at a summer school in Beijing. As a pre-test, I measured, over two days, the consumption of bottled water when that water was placed on every student desk. As a post-test, I then placed the water outside the classroom, where it was still easily accessible to students, but less so. This manipulation revealed that people were less likely to consume water when it was slightly less physically accessible.
During a Summer School in Beijing the bottled water provided to each student were placed right in front of each seat. Quite often I could see, most of the students did not finish the whole bottled water and the opened bottled water were left in the classroom after every single class. After moving to another classroom for the next class, some students opened up another bottle, did not finish and left in the classroom again.It’s such a huge waste, so I was wandering how can I change about this behavior.
Nudge is a concept in behavioral science, political theory and economics which process considers subtle changes in the environment that can potentially have large scale social implication. For example the etching of the image of a housefly into the men’s room urinals at Amsterdam’s Schiphzl Airport which is intended to “improve the aim”. A nudge makes it more likely that an individual will make a particular choice, or behave in a particular way, by altering the environment so that automatic cognitive processes are triggered to favor the desired outcome. An individual’s behavior does not always go with their intentions. It is a common knowledge that humans are not fully rational beings, people will often do things that is not their self-interest even they know that the actions are not at their self-interest.
The concept of nudges was mentioned in the book Nudge written by Thaler & Sunstein. They described two distinct systems for processing information as to why people sometimes act against their own self-interest: System 1 is fast, automatic and highly susceptible to environmental influences; System 2 processing is slow reflective and takes into account explicit goals and intentions. For example, about protecting the environment. We can often see signs and posters that express the idea of protecting the environment, most people do know that we need to protect our mother earth, we know that we should stop wasting water. But in reality, when it comes to convenience, we tend to forget about protecting the environment. So, what can I do to really form and shape people’s behavior instead of telling or reminding others what to do.
Another research by Brian Wansink about candy and secretarial weight gain helped me. The researcher collected data from secretaries working in offices where they put candy right on their desk of the first sample and put candy on a separate table for the other sample. It turns out that the sample of secretaries that have candy right under the desk gained more weight than the other sample where they put candy on another table—simply a few feet away.
I propose that the positions to put the bottled water does lower the amount of wasted water and that there are less water wasted when the bottled water were all on a separate table.
In study 1, bottled water were put right in front of each student, we then observe
1. how many people finish drinking all the water
2. how many bottles have 1/4 water left
3. how many are half finished
4. how many only have a few drinks
5. how many bottles are full.
After we get data from this scenario, we have another scenario. Bottled water were put on a separate table where people can get water whenever they needed. We also observe the same thing and compare with the data in the first scenario.
Summer School Sample
Subjects.We sampled about 250 Chinese students in a summer school at Beijing. Some of them have been studying abroad, someare in international schoolin China and the rest of them are from normal Chinese high school. The experimenter go inside each classroom to collect data after classes in the morning and also in the afternoon.
Materials.We sampled two days where the bottled waters were put in front of each seats (Pre Test) and sampled two days where the bottled waters were put together at another place where the students can grab when they needed (Post Test).
From the data I collected above, as predicted, the number of bottled water wasted are much less in the post test than the pre test. The data in the pre-test section is about 1.5 times more water waste than the post-test section, water waste was reduced about 36%.
This experiment is not like a survey that people knows the background or purpose of it, this is a real world data that none of the students knows beforehand that I am collecting data about bottles.
This is not convincing people that we should protect the environment, this is what we can do to change their behavior without any notice.
翁劭雯 Carol Weng