Nudges Observed in the Wild

(Note, on this page I will post actual Nudges that people have observed out in the real world. Email me your observations!)

Here's an article in the Economist pointed out to me by Igor Popenko on some of the stuff we've been discussing, the asteroid and how unlikely we are to die! What is particularly ironic about this article is that it was written anticipating people's fear of the asteroid, but the fact that a meteorite DID actually CRASH into a rural area of Russia, injuring hundreds on the same day the asteroid rocketed past Earth.

The Dual-Flush Toilet: I recently noticed that my university had installed "dual flush toilets" in the brand new building, presumably with the goal of limiting the amount of water used for each and every flush. The idea of the dual flush system is to use less water with a "number 1" and more with a "number 2". Makes sense. The problem with this nudge is that we are in the habit, as with a regular flush system, to push downward. The dual flush system wants you to pull upward in case of a "number 1" which is probably what would happen more often. If they really want to conserve water, they should have it be that we would push down (like normal) for a "number 1".

No Bags at Irish Grocery Stores! This is a SHOVE rather than a nudge and I think it is great. In the US at most stores other than IKEA, you can use brown paper bags for free when you shop. They encourage you to bring your reusable bags, even going so far as to have little sayings written on the doors as you come in like "did you remember your bags?" But no store has gone so far as to eliminate bags altogether. I find that this option FORCES me to reuse and it makes me really consider what I want to purchase and whether I really need it.

Here's one about Internet Usage from Niall Fahy: "a friend of mine received an email from his internet provider, UPC informing him that he was using too much data. They told him how much he used during the previous month and compared this to his neighbours usage. They told him that, while he was entitled to use as much as he liked within the limits of his contract, if everyone used the amount he used then they would not be able to provide a quality service to all." I have to note that this is so different than in the US. I literally feel like Americans RARELY consider limits on the usage of ANYTHING. Be it water, gas, internet whatever!

Location of the Maths Support Center by Joe Mc Kiernan: Note from me -- this is a simple but really good observation that could apply to almost anything. As we know, the marketers have figured this out -- imagine all the stuff at the store that you buy while waiting in the checkout line because it is sitting right there!

The university provides a service called the maths support centre (MSC). This is a drop-in room for people who need help with maths. It's free to students and I think the staff are volunteers (though I'm not certain of this). Here's their web-page:

By all account they provide a excellent service: knowledgeable, helpful, friendly. The only problem is their location. They are sited in an obscure corridor of the science building. Here are directions lifted from their website.

The MSC, Room G28 is located in the ground floor of the Science Centre South Building,
building 27 on the map below (opposite the Ag building).If you enter the Science Centre South Building from the covered walkway you will find two wooden doors inside on your LHS go through these and the MSC (Room G28) is the last room on the LHS at the end of the corridor.

The problem is that the MSC is not readily found. Many students with maths needs are not science students (eg Economics students!) and so may never have been in the science centre. Though I have had lectures in the science centre I still don't know which is the South Building. In short the MSC is hidden away. I suspect that there have been many students who would have benefited from the MSC but who didn't go through with it because it seemed too difficult to find it. Which brings me to what I suspect is the nudge.

The university library is currently undergoing some construction under what is called the cube project. When completed, the maths support centre will be relocated there. I think this is the perfect location for it. Firstly the library is central to the university both geographically and psychologically. Almost every student visits the library. Not only that but the MSC will be on level one, just inside the entry gates so that you won't be able to enter the library without seeing it. This will make it much more likely that those who previously had the idea and did nothing will now act upon it. I would expect they may even get "impulse buys" - people who would benefit from the MSC but never thought about going or even knew it existed.