Three of the best-known health messages are eating five portions a day of fruit and vegetables, getting 150 minutes of exercise a week and quitting smoking. But what evidence is there that these have worked?
This report discusses the use and reach of behavioural insights, drawing on a comprehensive collection of over 100 applications across the world and policy sectors.
But to be effective, nudges should be calibrated; “one size fits all” approaches tend to fall short of expectations. Instead, policymakers can tailor their nudges to align with these three dimensions: Spectrums of acceptability (and deviance). How strictly must targets adhere to the rule? While driving a couple of miles over the speed limit is unlikely to result in a traffic violation, attempting to bring a weapon onto an airplane requires zero-tolerance enforcement. Frequency of action. How often must the target group provide input? It may be easier to have targets make a single decision to contribute or obey, as opposed to encouraging them to repeatedly make the same decision over time. For example, people usually only need to choose to be an organ donor once, but drivers put their seat belt on every time they get into a car. Target group diversity. How heterogeneous is your target group? People may come from different socioeconomic backgrounds, have different interests, or may speak another language, all of which makes it challenging to apply a blanket rule with universal success. Moreover, targets can be geographically scattered or online, making it difficult for policymakers to surveil the target group. For example, all vehicle owners must register their cars, but not everyone should seek the same preventative medical treatments. And even those that do require similar treatments may have different motivations for doing so.
Our work published this week analyses all 111 cases studies of behavioral techniques used by governments compiled by the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development). Our analysis demonstrates that none of the techniques used have scientific proven effectiveness.
How-to for govts to set up a nudge unit