Tag Archives: Nudge

How to attract attention of pedestrians?

How could we make passing pedestrians stop and look at something? One solution is to apply technology. For instance, tactile pavings or tactile ground surface indicators tell them when to cross roads.

Another solution is to apply design. While I stayed in Curitiba, Brazil, fire extinguishers always attract my attention successfully. This is because they are located inside red-yellow squares painted on the ground.

Interestingly, the same rule applies when fire extinguishers are above the ground. Red-yellow squares are painted on the ground when fire extinguishers are hung on the wall.

Design beats technology in Curitiba. 🙂

Labrecque, L. I., & Milne, G. R. (2012). Exciting red and competent blue: the importance of color in marketing. Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science40(5), 711-727.

From beverages to consumer electronics, marketers are using color in innovative ways. Despite this, little academic research has investigated the role that color plays in marketing. This paper examines how color affects consumer perceptions through a series of four studies. The authors provide a framework and empirical evidence that draws on research in aesthetics, color psychology, and associative learning to map hues onto brand personality dimensions (Study 1), as well as examine the roles of saturation and value for amplifying brand personality traits (Study 2). The authors also demonstrate how marketers can strategically use color to alter brand personality and purchase intent (Study 3), and how color influences the likability and familiarity of a brand (Study 4). The results underscore the importance of recognizing the impact of color in forming consumer brand perceptions.

A visual nudge for social distancing inside an elevator

As Coronavirus spreads widely, people are asked to keep distance from others. The Straits Times posted a photo showing that visitors at an Indonesian shopping mall stand on boxes inside an elevator.

Another simple visual nudge was found in Seoul, Korea. The elevator floor was divided into nine squares. A single pair of foot prints was painted inside each square, suggesting only nine people in total were asked to ride an elevator.

It was not long before that I had thought floor signage could not change our behavior because we learned rules naturally. At that time, a yellow-painted footstep in Singapore and an orange-colored line in Shenzhen failed to correct our learned rules. However, Corona virus is now changing my thought: floor signage changes our behavior.

Benartzi, S., Beshears, J., Milkman, K. L., Sunstein, C. R., Thaler, R. H., Shankar, M., … Galing, S. (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.

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.

Apply behavioral economics to sell design more


Background People often choose between two competing options: option A (aesthetically superior but functionally inferior) and option F (functionally superior but aesthetically inferior). We hypothesize that people like option A more when it is presented with option F (joint evaluation) than when presented alone (separate evaluation) because people find aesthetic attributes are hard to evaluate. We further hypothesize that this effect holds neither for option F nor among experts.

Methods We briefly reviewed two cases in the Korean automobile industry and then conducted two experiments in China. In the first experiment, we compared preferences about two USB drivers between two evaluation modes. In the second experiments, we compared preferences about two basketball shoes in the joint evaluation between novices and experts.

Results We found from the first experiment that participants increased their preferences for option A in the joint evaluation compared to the separate evaluation. Their preferences for option F did not differ between the two evaluation modes. In the second experiment, only novices preferred option A over option F in the joint evaluation. Experts did not prefer option A over option F.

Conclusions Our findings contribute to the scholarly discussions about form and function. They also provide practical implications to designers and marketers who need to sell aesthetically pleasing products. This work goes beyond design marketing interface to add evaluation mode as an intervention to nudge people to choose aesthetically pleasing products, which has been barely discussed in behavioral economics.


AestheticBehavioral EconomicsFunctionInterventionKnowledgeMarketingNudge


A choice architecture to reuse hotel towels

Banff Aspen Lodge has an interesting environmental incentive program. If guests stay two or more nights and prefer no housekeeping service in this hotel, it offers a choice of options for the guest’s consideration:


  • Option 1: The hotel will make a donation of $4 on behalf of guests to the Banff Community Foundation, which supports environmental initiatives in their community. To select this option, guests insert the Green Card into the entry door lock.
  • Option 2: Enjoy one complimentary beverage at the Whitebark Cafe, which is located in the lobby. To select this option, guests insert the Yellow Card into the entry door lock. A complimentary beverage coupon is delivered to the guest’s room. 



I suspect someone carefully designed a choice architecture with a psychological intervention to nudge guests to choose “No” housekeeping service. This program will be effective because…  



  1. Three options are provided (housekeeping vs. environmental 1 vs. environmental 2). It differs from the choice architecture commonly observed in the behavioral economics in which two competing options are provided. Having three options may relieve the guests’ burden, which decreases their intentions to defer choices.  
  2. Only two environmental options are highlighted. As guests read and think about “how” to protect environment, the chance they select one of the two environmental options may increase.
  3. Two environmental options reflect the two motivations why people should behave environmentally friendly; helping others (charitable giving) and helping themselves (economic incentive). 
  4. Finally, when guests select one environmental option, they do not speak or write down but simply insert a card into their own entry door lock. This simple behavior has no peer pressure. 



This environmental incentive program might be more effective than making a commitment at check-in, a scientifically proven intervention in the prior marketing paper. 

Baca-Motes, K., Brown, A., Gneezy, A., Keenan, E. A., & Nelson, L. D. (2012). Commitment and Behavior Change: Evidence from the Field. Journal of Consumer Research, 39(5), 1070–1084.

Influencing behavior change is an ongoing challenge in psychology, economics, and consumer behavior research. Building on previous work on commitment, self-signaling, and the principle of consistency, a large, intensive field experiment (N = 2,416) examined the effect of hotel guests’ commitment to practice environmentally friendly behavior during their stay. Notably, commitment was symbolic—guests were unaware of the experiment and of the fact that their behavior would be monitored, which allowed them to exist in anonymity and behave as they wish. When guests made a brief but specific commitment at check-in, and received a lapel pin to symbolize their commitment, they were over 25% more likely to hang at least one towel for reuse, and this increased the total number of towels hung by over 40%. This research highlights how a small, carefully planned intervention can have a significant impact on behavior. Theoretical and practical implications for motivating desired behavior are discussed.



A pink litter bin on the London Bridge

River Thames flows through London. People come to the London Bridge to see the Tower Bridge which allows ocean-going ships to pass beneath it.



Many visitors stopped in front of a pink public litter bin momentarily and threw litter away before crossing the bridge.



We knew adding human faces or adding controversial messages nudge our prosocial behaviors. Adding votes could be another effective intervention. I believe behavioral economics can play a critical role when public items are designed. 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.



Why are antibiotics over prescribed in some countries?

Antibiotic prescription rate differs across countries. It is two times greater in Korea than in Norway (27.9 vs. 15.8: Defined Daily Doses (DDDs) per 1000 people per day, 2015 OECD report). Why are antibiotics over prescribed in Korea?





One reason might be that it is difficult to find traditional medicines in Korean market. In contrast, Norwegians can buy a FLU SHOT at convenience stores. It is a bitter version of Jamba Juice. It is filled with traditional medicines such as ginger, turmeric, garlic, and cayenne pepper.



If I can buy the same FLU SHOT in Korea, I may not need to see doctors often. My thought provides fresh insights into behavioral economists. In the past, how to nudge doctors not to prescribe antibiotics was studied. Now, how to nudge patients not to see doctors may need to be studied.



Meeker, Daniella, Jeffrey A. Linder, Craig R. Fox, Mark W. Friedberg, Stephen D. Persell, Noah J. Goldstein, Tara K. Knight, Joel W. Hay, Jason N. Doctor (2016), “Effect of Behavioral Interventions on Inappropriate Antibiotic Prescribing Among Primary Care Practices: A Randomized Clinical Trial,” Journal of the American Medical Association, 315 (6), 562-570.

IMPORTANCE: Interventions based on behavioral science might reduce inappropriate antibiotic prescribing.

OBJECTIVE: To assess effects of behavioral interventions and rates of inappropriate (not guideline-concordant) antibiotic prescribing during ambulatory visits for acute respiratory tract infections.

DESIGN, SETTING, AND PARTICIPANTS: Cluster randomized clinical trial conducted among 47 primary care practices in Boston and Los Angeles. Participants were 248 enrolled clinicians randomized to receive 0, 1, 2, or 3 interventions for 18 months. All clinicians received education on antibiotic prescribing guidelines on enrollment. Interventions began between November 1, 2011, and October 1, 2012. Follow-up for the latest-starting sites ended on April 1, 2014. Adult patients with comorbidities and concomitant infections were excluded.

INTERVENTIONS: Three behavioral interventions, implemented alone or in combination: suggested alternatives presented electronic order sets suggesting nonantibiotic treatments; accountable justification prompted clinicians to enter free-text justifications for prescribing antibiotics into patients’ electronic health records; peer comparison sent emails to clinicians that compared their antibiotic prescribing rates with those of “top performers” (those with the lowest inappropriate prescribing rates).

MAIN OUTCOMES AND MEASURES: Antibiotic prescribing rates for visits with antibiotic-inappropriate diagnoses (nonspecific upper respiratory tract infections, acute bronchitis, and influenza) from 18 months preintervention to 18 months afterward, adjusting each intervention’s effects for co-occurring interventions and preintervention trends, with random effects for practices and clinicians.

RESULTS: There were 14,753 visits (mean patient age, 47 years; 69% women) for antibiotic-inappropriate acute respiratory tract infections during the baseline period and 16,959 visits (mean patient age, 48 years; 67% women) during the intervention period. Mean antibiotic prescribing rates decreased from 24.1% at intervention start to 13.1% at intervention month 18 (absolute difference, -11.0%) for control practices; from 22.1% to 6.1% (absolute difference, -16.0%) for suggested alternatives (difference in differences, -5.0% [95% CI, -7.8% to 0.1%]; P = .66 for differences in trajectories); from 23.2% to 5.2% (absolute difference, -18.1%) for accountable justification (difference in differences, -7.0% [95% CI, -9.1% to -2.9%]; P < .001); and from 19.9% to 3.7% (absolute difference, -16.3%) for peer comparison (difference in differences, -5.2% [95% CI, -6.9% to -1.6%]; P < .001). There were no statistically significant interactions (neither synergy nor interference) between interventions.

CONCLUSIONS AND RELEVANCE: Among primary care practices, the use of accountable justification and peer comparison as behavioral interventions resulted in lower rates of inappropriate antibiotic prescribing for acute respiratory tract infections.



People tip more when they disagree with a statement

Flam is a small village in Norway. Tourists who take the Norway in a Nutshell tours switch ferry boats here. A cozy restaurant called Bakkastova Cafe is located up on the hill.



This restaurant had a note at the cash register. It says, statistics say that women are tipping better than men. I added coins to the tip jar labeled men because I wanted to oppose this questionable argument. Others might tip if they support it.



This suggests that scientifically proven or well supported arguments may fail to motivate people to behave in a certain way. Rather, incomplete, controversial arguments trigger people’s willingness to speak out and may lead them to make an action. From the behavioral economics’ perspective, people’s avoidance for perfection seems to be a better nudge compared to either putting on some lipsticks to make something look like a human or painting foot prints on the street.



Do we need floor signage?

We now see a wide variety of floor signage. In Singapore, there is a yellow-painted footstep on the right side of the paved road at the Marina Bay. Since this road is crowded by runners, this signage probably helps them run on the right side of the road.



In Shenzhen, China, there are orange-colored lines at the subway stations. Since many people are in a hurry, these lines help them not to rush forward when the train is coming, and wait for the next train if they cannot get on.



Although floor signage is visually salient, I wonder whether this is needed to change our behavior, because we learn rules naturally. We learn how to avoid bumping into other runners when running on a narrow road and we also learn how to navigate a huge crowd to get on a train. Although I am a strong supporter of behavior economics and nudge, I believe some nudges interfere with learning. Not surprisingly, some people argue that behavioral economics are not always as effective as thought (Why nudges hardly help)(The dark side of nudging). We need to study more about which specific nudges are ineffective and how we can modify these nudges.


Behavior change requires time

Changing behavior is important but challenging. Thus, it attracts huge attention among practitioners as well as researchers. For instance, Charles Duhigg introduced various examples in his book, The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business. Professor BJ Fogg at Stanford University proposed a behavior change model at the Persuasive Technology Lab. Designers graduating from the ID, Illinois Institute of Technology summarized the mechanisms and tools on their website, Brains Behavior and Design Group. Most recently, Professor Dilip Soman at University of Toronto teaches Behavioral Economics in Action at his online course.

DesignMarketingLab_Behavioral Economics in Action

For me, I have long wished to be ambidextrous. In Asia, however, using left hand to do something (e.g., eating, writing, pointing, etc.) is not viewed appropriate and I had no chance to practice my left hand. Therefore, I have experimented myself since when I left for Canada whether I can practice my left hand so that it performs as well as my right hand does.

Brushing teeth with my left hand was relatively easy at night. However, doing so in the morning was extremely challenging. Although I have brushed teeth with my left hand for the past 10 years, I often find myself brushing teeth with my right hand when I am sleepy or tired, which is often the case in the morning. Indeed, ten-year is not sufficient to master brushing teeth with my left hand probably because I did not stop brushing teeth with my right hand.

I had different experience regarding controlling the computer mouse. Certainly, using mouse with my left hand was very challenging in the first couple of years. However, 3-year of intensive practice paid me off. I could click, drag, and drop icons using my left hand without noticing that I did so with my left hand. This habit relieves the shoulder pain and I can work longer than before. Three-year was sufficient to master using the mouse with my left hand probably because I completely stopped using the mouse with my right hand.

DesignMarketingLab_Left handed mouse

I plan to start sketching/drawing with my left hand this year. Different from brushing teeth or controlling computer mouse, I have not drawn before. In other words, I have no habit to unlearn but need to develop a new habit only. I hope skipping the unlearning stage takes me less time/effort to master sketching with my left hand.