BSPA Pull Quote October 26-02

This week on #policyshop, Erin Frey wrote a must-read post on what makes behavioral interventions last. We're also pleased to feature Dilip Soman's cliff notes for generating behavioural* interventions.

*courtesy Canadian spelling of behavioral, since Dilip is at Rotman in Toronto


The 1-2-3-4's of Behavioral Insights

By Dilip Soman


The central objective of any organization


Be it a government, a welfare organization of a business; and be they for profit or not for profit, a fundamental objective of all organizations is to influence and change their stakeholders’ behaviour.



The two flavours of rationality


The fact that people don’t make choices per the laws of economics doesn’t mean they are “irrational,” they are just being human. Instead:


Irrationality 1.0: When organizations act under the assumption that its stakeholders are rational. For instance, they offer a lot of choice, disclose a lot of information and make alternatives economically superior (but perhaps more complex) when consumers might just not care – or even worse – be confused by these actions.


Irrationality 2.0: When people can’t do what they intend to do. We all want to eat healthy, exercise regularly, get medical check-ups and save for the future. Life, though, gets in the way!



The two approaches to help people make better decisions


Equip: Equip them with the tools they need to improve decision making. This could include information, decision engines, advice or appropriate decision heuristics.


Pad: Change the context so that should the person neglect to make a choice, or chooses poorly, the consequences are not disastrous.



The three tools of the choice architect.


A Frame: Framing the decision by changing the context, alternatives, sequence of presentation, or the presentation of relevant information can have effects on what people choose.


A Lock: Designing locks allow people to accomplish things that they want to do. Locks can be social (using peer pressure to follow through on pre-commitments, e.g.,, psychological (using a understanding of behaviour to make it easy to follow-through, e.g. Save More Tomorrow), technological (using technology to prevent deviant behaviour, e.g. Clocky) or – physically a lock on a consumption item! (e.g.,


A Prod: Making choices active (or prompted choice) can serve as the prod for getting people to think and decide. Decision-points like reminders, interruptions or small transaction costs can give people the opportunity to convert passive actions into active choices.



The four types of choices that choice architects can influence


Compliance: Getting people to act in accordance with a regulation set by a government or agency (e.g., tax deadlines, regulatory paperwork requirements)


Switching: Getting people to convert from one choice to another (e.g., brand switching, replacing soda with water at meals)


Following Through: Getting people to follow through on commitments they themselves made (e.g., completing a weight loss regimen, or just acting on your intentions)


Active Choosing: Getting people to break undesired habits by converting passive mindless decisions into active choices.



The four approaches to behaviour change. In getting people who are currently choosing A to do B instead, we can


Restrict: Ban A, or withdraw Option A altogether


Incentivize: Give a discount / subsidy for B, a tax or penalty for A


Inform: Provide people with copious information containing good reasons to choose B over A


Nudge them: Change the default or add in a decision-point!


The best behaviour change programs might include a combination of all four approaches!


You can download a PDF version of the 1-2-3-4 guide here

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