Tag Archives: London

How could we stop cigarette butt litter?

Cigarette butts are the tail ends of the cigarette left over after someone has smoked it. They are under-acknowledged, but widespread, pollutants. At the Quora, someone said the following.

In fact, thanks to the fact that for decades smokers just didn’t care where they threw them, there are very likely cigarette butts in the Amazon rain forest, at the North Pole, and on the fast-disappearing Ross Ice Shelf in Antarctica. Practically the only place they are difficult to find is where they belong – in the trash bin.

To tackle this issue, various efforts have been suggested. According to Tara Rohan, for instance, posters and videos have been provided to educate people about the environmental impacts of cigarette-butt litter. Alternatively, cans have been installed in select neighborhoods. Most of these efforts aim to nudge smokers to throw cigarette butts in trash bins. Recently, I have noticed an interesting approach in London, UK.

At the Portobello Road market in London, bins are installed for those who want to throw gums and cigarette butts. For an unidentified reason, these bins have baby faces. As research suggests that large, round eyes, high eyebrows, and a small chin yielded the perception of a babyish facial appearance.

Since baby face or Kindchenschema (baby schema) is “related to the vulnerable nature of a living entity, it elicits responses from adults that increase the infant’s chance of survival. These include increased attention to and protection of the helpless infant (Brosch, Sandder, and Scherer 2007; Lorenz 1943) and increased carefulness and caretaking behavior (Sherman, Haidt, and Coan 2009). (Nenkov et al. 2014, pg. 326)”

Nenkov, G. Y., & Scott, M. L. (2014). “So Cute I Could Eat It Up”: Priming Effects of Cute Products on Indulgent Consumption. Journal of Consumer Research, 41(2), 326–341.

Although adding a human face to the tip jar backfires, having a baby face even contributes to the success of high-ranking Black executives. Designing cigarette bins like cute babies must be effective to collect cigarette butts. I wish similar bins are installed in other markets and cities as well to stop cigarette butt litter.

Livingston, R. W., & Pearce, N. A. (2009). The teddy-bear effect: Does having a baby face benefit black chief executive officers?. Psychological science20(10), 1229-1236.

Prior research suggests that having a baby face is negatively correlated with success among White males in high positions of leadership. However, we explored the positive role of such “babyfaceness” in the success of high-ranking Black executives. Two studies revealed that Black chief executive officers (CEOs) were significantly more baby-faced than White CEOs. Black CEOs were also judged as being warmer than White CEOs, even though ordinary Blacks were rated categorically as being less warm than ordinary Whites. In addition, baby-faced Black CEOs tended to lead more prestigious corporations and earned higher salaries than mature-faced Black CEOs; these patterns did not emerge for White CEOs. Taken together, these findings suggest that babyfaceness is a disarming mechanism that facilitates the success of Black leaders by attenuating stereotypical perceptions that Blacks are threatening. Theoretical and practical implications for research on race, gender, and leadership are discussed.

A pink litter bin on the London Bridge

River Thames flows through London. People come to the London Bridge to enjoy the river.

When I visited the London Bridge, there was a pink public litter bin in the beginning of the bridge. Many visitors stopped in front of it momentarily and threw litter away before crossing the bridge.

Although adding human faces or adding controversial messages encourages our prosocial behaviors, adding an opportunity to vote could be another effective intervention. Asking people to vote by splitting a litter bin into two sub bins looks more effective than designing a gigantic litter bin like a disposable coffee cup. I believe libertarian paternalism proposed by behavioral economists could help people behave in a better way.

Benartzi, Shlomo, John Beshears, Katherine L. Milkman, Cass R. Sunstein, Richard H. Thaler, Maya Shankar, Will Tucker-Ray, William J. Congdon, and Steven Galing (2017), “Should Governments Invest More in Nudging?,” Psychological Science, 28 (8), 1–15.

Governments are increasingly adopting behavioral science techniques for changing individual behavior in pursuit of policy objectives. The types of “nudge” interventions that governments are now adopting alter people’s decisions without coercion or significant changes to economic incentives. We calculated ratios of impact to cost for nudge interventions and for traditional policy tools, such as tax incentives and other financial inducements, and we found that nudge interventions often compare favorably with traditional interventions. We conclude that nudging is a valuable approach that should be used more often in conjunction with traditional policies, but more calculations are needed to determine the relative effectiveness of nudging.

Self service kiosks are everywhere

The Frankfurt airport in Germany has Nespresso Coffee kiosks. They brew coffee.



The canteen at Copenhagen Business School in Denmark has a self-checkout system. It tells how much I should pay.



The Max, a fast food restaurant in Stockholm, Sweden, has a do-it-yourself kiosk stand. It receives orders.



A hotel in Oslo, Norway, has a self service kiosk reception. Doors open only when reservation information is entered.



Self service kiosks are everywhere in Europe. They benefit managers and customersManagers lower labor cost and customers avoid unnecessary relationships companies hoped for. However, self service kiosks have two weaknesses. Gretchen Gavett elaborated them in his article titled How Self-Service Kiosks Are Changing Customer Behavior.


… Technology lacks flexibility. When we’re interacting with a person and we’re having trouble understanding something, the person can adjust to us. If we’re having a misunderstanding, they can help clarify it. Technology really can’t do either of these things.

… A person has the ability to delight us or disappoint us. It’s really hard for a technology to ever delight, however, because it’s standardized and is built on a set of rules. But it is possible for technologies to disappoint us.


Neal’s Yard Dairy, a cheese store at the Borough market in London, UK, shows how and why people outperform kiosks. Customers should talk to the person over the counter to buy cheese in this store. While having conversation with another human being, customers learn what to buy and they are relieved or excited. Only people educate AND delight us at the same time. Kiosks cannot.





Louis Kahn, the architect of IIM Ahmedabad

I came to know Louis Kahn at the Design Museum, London. This little museum held an exhibition called the power of architecture and introduced him and his work.

Louis Kahn (1901-74) was one of the most influential architects of the twentieth century. With complex spatial compositions and a choreographic mastery of light, Kahn created buildings of archaic beauty and powerful universal symbolism. His work impacted many of his contemporaries and still serves today as a model and measure among architects, expecially those of the younger generation.

Kahn’s acclaim is based on a small number of buildings that were elected over a short time period of just 25 years. While his early work focused on housing and urban planning in his home city of Philadelphia, he started to gain a worldwide reputation toward the end of the 1950s as an architect of public buildings. Kahn designed museum, laboratories, schools, churches, synagogues, and even a national parliament. For a long time he was exclusively active in the USA, yet his later work took an an increasingly global dimension. Consequently, two of his most important projects were executed in India and Bangladesh – the Indian Institute of Management in Ahmedabad (1962-74) and the National Assembly building in Dhaka (1962-83).





Verbal instructions do not work

People often use verbal signs to give instructions to others. The store owner posts a sign on the window saying, “This is a window, please use the door.” Government officers paint “Look Right” at the pedestrian crossing. However, I have observed numerous store visitors and pedestrians mistakenly push or slide the window and look left before crossing the road. In these cases, a visual signage might work better to attract their attention and guide their behavior.



Train experience: Mechanical vs. Electronic

I recently traveled on trains in UK (London – Edinburgh) and in Korea (Seoul – Busan) and found two interesting differences.

First, I used a physical train ticket in UK and used an electronic ticket in Korea. In UK, I collected a paper ticket at the station and then physically showed it to the conductor on board at the time of ticket control. Interestingly, a slot was designated for train ticket on the headrest of each seat; thus, I did not have to interact with the conductor. Differently from this mechanical system, I paid for a train ticket online and my seat was booked in advance in Korea. Overall, I preferred the traditional mechanical way of working over the electronic one. Although the electronic system sounds convenient, I had spent more than 2 hours at home on going through hundreds of websites to buy a single train ticket online. I wish people do not replace the mechanical approach with the electronic one simply because the electronic approach looks cool.

Another interesting difference was that train seats in UK are higher than the train seats in Korea. In the UK train, people find it difficult to confirm whether a seat was taken or empty. However, it was relatively easy in the Korean train. Certainly, train seats were designed differently based on the average height of the people in each country. However, this difference further suggest that privacy matters more in the UK culture whereas publicness seems to be weighted more in the Korean culture.

DML_Train UK (1)

UK train (London – Edinburgh)


Korean train (Seoul – Busan)

DML_Train Korea

What is an advantage of having a popular first name?

First name (or given name) is the name that identifies a specific person. It differentiates a person from other members of a group, such as a family or clan, with whom that person shares a common last name (or family name). While last name is normally inherited, first name is “free to choose” and thus can be unique.

In some countries, however, only a few options seem to be highly popular. Many of my friends who were born and live in US, UK, or Canada have common first names. In English-based countries, Coke’s massively-distributed-but-highly-customized “first name” marketing campaign will work: each bottle of coke has its own first name label such as John, Sarah, Emma, and Alex. However, popular first names seem to be avoided in other countries. Most of my Korean friends have their own unique first names. In this country, Coke marketers may find it difficult to find popular first names and launch a marketing campaign using them.

DML_London_Firstnames on Coke

Then, why do some people pick up popular first names and others avoid them?

Make public communication points useful

Nowadays, people rarely use pay phones or mailboxes run by government. Instead, they prefer to use private services when communicating with others; they use mobile phones or gmails. As people find the contemporary public services slow and inconvenient, they avoid public communication points. Ironically, most of the public communication points such as pay phone booths and mail boxes are located at the high traffic areas. Put simply, relatively useless, public communication points stand at the highly useful, high traffic areas.

Therefore, many people propose to use public communication points for other purposes. For example, they suggest to use pay phone booths to charge batteries from mobile phones to electronic cars, to use the booths to collect traffic data, or to leave defibrillator, a device to give electric shock to someone’s hearts, for emergency.

DML_London Public (1)

Pay toilet, spoiled customer, and mental accounting

I have seen pay toilets at train stations or tourist spots in London. Since paying money to use public toilet was new to me, I simply thought making profits by victimising tourists is unethical. However, one of my friends who has been living in London for a few years said money should be collected to maintain toilet clean.

DML_Toilet 1

I found that I paid too much attention to consumers’ service and did not carefully think about the maintenance issue. In order words, I did not separate the toilet service from the train service, and simply requested free toilet service because I paid for the train service.

When I lived in Toronto a few years ago, I did not expect free bundles or free services. I walked to a restaurant to eat, I carried a newly purchased microwave oven by myself, I visited a bank to pay hydro, and I paid for the lotions at stores. After moving to Seoul from from Toronto, however, I have become accustomed to free things; I ordered food or bought devices and asked for free delivery service, wired money at home without visiting the bank, and received a lot of free sample lotions at stores. Indeed, the guardian chose Seoul as the 10 best cities in the world to be a student because McDonald’s in Seoul runs a 24-hour delivery service. Although free goods and convenient services offered by this city may welcome budget-tight foreign students, people who are constantly surrounded by free stuffs become easily spoiled. I am not exception, either.

Then, how could I fix this situation? I believe mental accounting might be an answer. Researchers suggest that people keep track of their past transactions and plan their future budgets mentally. While doing so, people often make mistakes. They do not accurately remember how much they spend when using credit card or fail to separate different expenses but put them into one category. For instance, if I mentally account better when someone delivers McDonald’s set to my place, I can separate delivery cost from McDonald’s set price and then, at least, appreciate and thank for free delivery service. If I mentally accounted better about pay toilet at the train station, I paid for toilet without complaining.

Mental accounting was originally proposed to study people’s biased financial decisions. However, it may help people to be nicer by decreasing the degree to which they are spoiled. 🙂