Welcome to week two of Behavioral Science & Policy This Week. This week's edition features Simon Hedlin's Boston Globe article on the pros and cons of using guilt to motivate green behavior, and a round-up of other behavioral science and policy news from around the internet.
On the #policyshop blog, Harvard Law School's Oren Bar-Gill wrote a fascinating article about Akerlof and Shiller's new book, Phishing for Phools, incorporating his own work on the psychology of why people sign bad contracts as an example of their central thesis. Next week, look for Philip Newall's post on the blog in which he explores another aspect of Akerlof and Shiller's work, delving into the world of darn nudges in gambling and his own past as a poker player.
In the Boston Globe, Simon Hedlin explains his new research with Cass Sunstein on how guilt can be a motivating force for good, but may sometimes also cause resentment:
[...] when people regret making a choice that they think ultimately may harm others — such as changing towels or consuming less environmentally friendly energy — they can be spurred to do the right thing. And that can have serious implications for policy makers.
Ideally we would be motivated by positive feelings at least to the same extent as we are by negative ones. But the problem is that when we feel good about ourselves for helping others, we are not necessarily compelled to do more to feel even better. Instead we are tempted to reward ourselves, which unfortunately can offset our righteous behavior. [...]