At Nudge Crowd, we are very enthusiastic about how governments and organizations can utilize insights from behavioral science to nudge people and thereby helping them to make better decisions – for themselves and for society. You can read more about us at 

In this blog post, we would like to share 4 simple behavioral design principles developed by the some of the frontiers in the field: the British Behavioral Insights Team.

We hope these four principles spark some ideas and inspiration, but we would like to stress that the existing literature base is immense. It is therefore impossible for a single individual to consider all possibilities of how behavioral factors can be utilized – this is why we believe that the best ideas can be provided by a large crowd.


Make it easy: Reduce the hassle

An effective way to encourage a particular behavior can be to remove a few small stones on the way. Because the human brain only has a limited budget of attention, we tend to choose the easiest option available for us. A powerful illustration of the this can be found in the case of organ donation. In Germany people have to actively choose to become an organ donor (what is known as opting in) resulting in only 12 percent of the citizens giving their consent, whereas in their neighboring country Austria, people are automatically registered and have to make an active choice not to be a donor (what is known as opting out), and thus 99 percent have given their consent (Johnson & Goldstein, 2003). If you want to encourage a particular behavior from your customers, employees or business partners, make it easier – in particular, you should pay attention to the choice presented as the standard, or default, option.


Attract attention and make it appealing

Each minute our brain is exposed to hundreds of different impressions and we are constantly trying to prioritize what is important and what is not. In other words, action requires attention as well as motivation to conduct a particular task. Harnessing behavioral insights can help you to capture attention and make it appealing to conduct the desired action. We are for example programmed by nature to be attracted by bright colors due to the threat of predators in ancient times. This insight led the idea of painting the garbage bins in Copenhagen and the famous green feet. Experiments show that the intervention increased litter going to the bin by as much as 46% (inudgeyou).


Harness social forces

Humans are social animals. We are heavily influenced by what those around us do and say. We laugh twice as often when we watch a comedy show together than we do if we watch it alone. And we are more likely to take the stairs if the person ahead of us does. One of the most famous examples of the application of behavioral insights is how the British government has increased tax compliance by 15 percentage points by adjusting the reminder sent to late taxpayers to include a sentence stating that ‘you are one of the few people who have not paid yet’ (Hallsworth, et al., 2014).


Find the right timing

Timing matters. Humans are poor at planning their time and we often forget to apply the knowledge we have. For example in developing countries, farmers do not have the necessary funds to invest in fertilizers, which limits the yield in their soil significantly. In Kenya, experiments were designed to allow farmers to prepay for fertilizers during the harvest and get it delivered during the next planting season. This proved as effective as offering a 50 percent subsidy at the time fertilizer was applied (Duflo, Kremer and Robinson, 2008). Normally the farmers would first need to buy the fertilizer two months after harvest where he got his income. This resulted in a situation where the money was already spent when it was time to buy fertilizers. For the farmers it was difficult to plan and prioritize the money and resist spending the money at once – they were not acting in an economically rational way. With a well-timed nudge, however, it was easy for the farmer to set money aside for next year’s fertilizers. The lesson is that interventions are more effective when timed with key moments.

These cases only present the tip of the iceberg. During the past decades, more than 150 various behavioral biases have been uncovered. There exist many different approaches of working with behavioral insights, and each inspires different types of ideas and interventions. We have presented just a few of them. If you wish to learn more about this framework developed by the Behavioral Insights Team, visit read report about the EAST framework.

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