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Nudge: Cigarette butts- Not for littering but for voting
Selagea Vasile Ioan, Simeanu Carla Maria, Stancu Elena Alexandra
Lucian Blaga University of Sibiu, Department of Journalism, Public Relations, Sociology and
Psychology Sibiu, Romania
Abstract:
Humans are not always rational beings, so therefore we have a large scale of techniques meant
to improve the decision making process in such way that individuals would choose what is
useful for society or for they own long term wellbeing. In the following paper we present a
technique of environment manipulation which offered great results in inducing a desired
behavior among students: throwing cigarette butts in special bins. The results show how facile
the process of life improvement can be stimulated trough nudge.
Keywords: environment, littering, recipient, voting, nudge.
Introduction
The picture of a man who is rational, making his own decision in an unbiased way was the
approach promoted by the mainstream economics. This vision created by the economists is
nowadays contradicted by the results from behavioral sciences researches which present a
human who does not always think rationally and how uses cognitive short-cuts, social norms
and pressures in the process of making decisions (Moseley & Stoker, 2013). These results
replace the image of homo economicus with the image of a person who has bounded rationality
and how does not make deliberate decision (Mont, Lehner & Heiskanen, 2014).
In the paperwork In search of the lost nudges (2015), Guilhem Lecouteux states that
standard economic theory is built on the assumption that people act as if seeking to satisfy
stable and coherent preferences and are instrumentally rational given their beliefs and
preferences.
The term “nudge” refers to “any aspect of the choice architecture that alerts people`s
behaviour in a predictable way without forbidding any options or significantly changing their
ecomonic incentives” (Thaler & Sustein, 2008, p. 6).
From economic behavior perspective, Kahnemann (2011) stated that all situations have
in one way or another the architecture of a choice, even if it is not built explicitly. This
architecture refers to the informational or physic structure of the environment, what influences
the way in which the choices are made (Thaler & Sunstein, 2008). Nudge therefore refers to the
deliberate changes what are made within choice’s architecture, changes what will influence
people’s behavior by changing the environment itself, what allows individuals to make a choice
almost automatically. This may be accomplished by simplifying the offered information or by
changing the order of choices so that it would facilitate taking the socially desirable decision. In
other words, nudges do not try to change someone’s values or to increase the amount of
information, but focuses on allowing decision making and manifesting the individual behaviors
which are useful for society and usually serve individual’s long term interests (Thaler &
Sunstein, 2008).
For understanding how the nudges work it is imperative to understand how the human
behavior works in taking a decision from the perspective of economical psychology. Therefore,
to understand the behavior which a nudge wishes to change, a looking into Daniel Kahneman
(2011) decision making theory is necessary. Kahneman describes in his theory two systems of
thinking : system 1-fast (automatic ,intuitive) and system 2-slow (deliberate, conscious). While
system 1 is used for daily decisions system 2 is used for taking much more important decisions
that need thorough thinking. Nudges just as the most of the tools for changing behavior target a
changing in system 2 (Lehner, Mont, Heiskanen, 2015).
Aiming to „influence people`s behaviour in order to make their lives longer, healthier and
better” (Thaler & Sunstein, 2008, p. 5) the movement known as libertarian paternalism supports
the idea that humans have to be guided, but not forced to improve their lives. Researchers who
promote this approach think that the government should give citizens “a choice architecture that
encourages them to act in a way that achieves benefits for themselves and for their fellow
citizens.” (John, Cotterill, Richardson, Moseley, Stoker, Wales & Smith, 2011, p. 10).
Citing Thaler and Sunstein (2008), Mont, Lehner and Heiskanen present when a nudging
intervention could be undertaken. Thereby, they mention following situations:
When choices have delayed effects
When learning is not possible
When feedback can not be received
Nudge represents a collective construct for different instruments used o influence people’s
behaviour. This implies four categories of instruments: simplifying and reorganizing the
information, simplifying and reorganizing the physic environment, changing the default
policies, use of the social norms.
Nudging is built on the insight that not only the quantity and the accessibility of the
information is important, but also the way it is presented. Simplifying the information means
that it becomes more direct and presented in a suitable manner for it to be processed and to
facilitate the decisional process. This is useful in the context of complex products or services.
The framing refers to consciously providing information in such manner that it
would trigger certain values and attitudes in people.
Another method of simplifying and reorganizing the information is trough feedback. It is
well known the significant impact the environment has upon individual’s choices. Eg: The
product placement on shelves, inside the store (Goldberg & Gunasti,2007), small sizes of
plates and portion in “all you can eat” restaurants reduce the the amount of wasted food and
energy consumption (Freedman & Brocado, 2010; Rolls, Morris et al., 2002).
People often choose the path which has the fewest resistances. They prefer not to act unless
it is mandatory and have the tendency to procrastinate. Therefore we are influence by the
default options which determine the result of decision in case the people do not react. Eg.: A
Swedish study has proven that 30% of paper consumption is cause due to the default printing
option one-side-only and that changing the default option to both-sides print has reduced the
paper consumption by 15% (Egerbark & Ekstrijm, 2013).
Since people are social beings, social norms are a major influence factor for human
behavior. For a norm to be effective in changing the behavior, it has to be highly visible for
individuals. (Cialdini & Goldstein, 2004). Eg: A study has measured the fruit consumption in
two schools ( Schwarts, 2007). In the first school children were asked if they wanted a fruit or a
juice with the meal, while in the other school they were not asked (no inducement). The
difference between the two schools was significant: 70% of children from the first school have
chosen to eat fruits while in the other school, only 40%.
Social norms have an important role in fields as recycling where studies has shown that
neighbor’s recycling rate is mutual influenced. (John et al., 2011) .As littering is one that
includes more than one behavior, the behavior chosen for this research is cigarette butt littering.
On the website http://preventcigarettelitter.org/why_it_matters/why_it_matters.html
dedicated to preventing this kind of behavior some data is given on why do people litter. Thus
63% of cigarette butt littering is attributable to individual motivations, in the top motivations
being lack of awareness about the environmental impact and insufficient ash receptacles.
Furthermore a striking 10% of cigarette butts are properly deposited in ash receptacles , being
the least likely item to be placed in a receptacle.
Method:
We expect that in this study the presence of the specially designed recipient to influence the
littering behavior of students who smoke in the specified area.
Subjects:
The participants to this study were the students of Lucian Blaga’s University from Sibiu who
live in dorm number 1, 31th, Victory’s Bloulevard , who usually choose as smoking place
the pre-selected area.
Selected Area:
After an observation realised in 15-12-2015, it was established that the area would have
surface of 2 square meters next to the dorm’s entry. This surface was cleaned up before the
observations so there were no leavings from previous days. The area was selected by the
frequency of students smoking there and therefore the significant amout of remnants.
Observation:
The observation has been made after a prior cleaning up the area. The perimeter has been
observed for two days between: 7:00 am to 10:00 am the following day. After this perios, the
leftovers (cigarette butts) ere counted, the results were: 52 leftovers in the area and 10 in the
container.
Instrument:
As a nudge instrument we used a recipent similar to a voting box, provided with two sections,
the boxes dimentions: 10 cm width, 40 cm lenght, 30 cm height. The materials from with the
box have been made are: stainless sheet for it’s fireproof properties and the front has been
made of glass to allow visibility.
The recipent was set in place at 7:00 am in the selected area, alongside with an A3 type poster
what had printed on a yellow back-ground the following message: „Have you studied for
exams?”. On the glass side of the recipent there were the answers: ”Yes” and ”No”.
Three weeks after the first observation, 06-01-2016, we collected the cigarette leftovers
from the box and the.
Figure 1. Design of the box
Results
After the recipent was setup, the results were: 44 leftovers in the box and 7 leftover in the
area.
Figure 2. Results before and after nudging
Conclusions
The results of the experiment confirm the effect of the nudge over the behavior of littering in
specially created places. As the results were visible and significant we recommend an
implementation at University level so that we can observe benefits at a greater scale . Even it
was demonstrated that nudging strategies have positive effects, they also have weaknesses.
Thus, one of the main disadvantages is that the results obtained in a laboratory or
environmental intervension could not be generalized on a population level. Moreover,
specialty literature evidences that the impact of a nudge is, for most interventions, small.
Beacuse of this, it is necessary to use trail-and-error process to achieve the goals. Beside this,
the positive impact of a nudge action decreases with time ((Mont et al., 2014).
References
Cialdini, R. B. and N. J. Goldstein (2004). Social Influence: Compliance and Conformity.
Annual Review of Psychology, 55(1): 591-621.
Goldberg, M. E., Gunasti, K. (2007). Creating an environment in which youths are
encouraged to eat a healthier diet. Journal of Public Policy & Marketing, 26 (2): 162-
181.
Freedman, M. R. and C. Brochado (2010). Reducing portion size reduces food intake
and plate waste. Obesity, 18(9): 1864-1866.
John, P., Cotterill, S., Moseley, A., Richardson, L., Smith, G., Stoker, G., Wales, C. (2011).
Nugde, Nudge, Think, Think: Experimenting with ways to change civic behaviour. London:
Bloomsbury Academic .
Kahneman, D. (2011). Thinking, fast and slow. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
Lecouteux, G. (2015). In Search of Lost Nudges. Rev.Phil.Psych., 6, 397408
DOI 10.1007/s13164-015-0265-0.
Lehner, M., Mont, O., Heiskanen, E. (2016) Nudging - a promising tool for sustainable
consumption behaviour?, Journal of Cleaner Production
doi: 10.1016/j.jclepro.2015.11.086.
Mont, O., Lehner, M., Heiskanen, E. (2014). Nudging: A tool for sustainable behaviour?.
Bromma: Swedish Environmental Protection Agency.
Moseley, A., Stoker, G. (2013). Nudging citizens? Prospects and pitfalls confronting a new
heuristic. Resources, Conservation and Recycling, 79, 410.
Schwartz, M. (2007). The influence of a verbal prompt on school lunch fruit consumption: a
pilot study. International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, 4-6.
Thaler, R., Sunstein, C. (2008). Nudge. Improving Decisons about Helth, Wealth, and
Happiness. New Heaven & London: Yale Univeristy Press.
ResearchGate has not been able to resolve any citations for this publication.
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