Monday, February 28, 2011

Follow up to today's class

Absent minded is my norm but today I was more discombobulated than usual. I misplaced my keys and only found a spare a few minutes before our class. And I was a little distraught about the exam in my other class. That resulted in some things I failed to mention that I'd really like you to consider.

1. Nudges you do to yourself. The idea, to use some economic jargon, is that while you are in the cold state you do things to make hot state things you want to deter have higher marginal cost and likewise for things you want to encourage you do things to lower their marginal cost (or raise their marginal benefit). One personal example is getting regular exercise. In the warm months it is much easier since I like to walk. In the cold months I kind of dread the treadmill and the stationary bike, so what I do is buy DVDs of shows/movies I think I will like and deliberately put them on the player in the exercise room. It works....more often than not. I could really use the DVD for season 3 of Breaking Bad.

2. Nudges in our class. The blogging definitely has an aspect of a nudge. Part of the aim with that was to influence (a) that you've done the reading and (b) you try to consider the reading more deeply in terms of incorporating ideas from elsewhere that were not assigned. I am extraordinarily interested in whether that method as nudge has been at least partially effective in your view. I'm also interested in ways that might be done better. You can give feedback on that by commenting on this post, emailing me about it, or writing about it in our own blog.

3. Having the Nudgers learn. This isn't in the book, as far as I can recall. My own view is that one needs to have an iterative approach in implementing anything that is new --- try something, look at the outcome, make an assessment of what works and what doesn't, tweak and repeat the cycle. Then preferably try the same thing in a different environment or get other people to try it to see how robust it is. This is the approach I've learned over the years from trying to implement technology into instruction.

4. Treating symptoms rather than causes. This is potentially quite a serious problem with nudging. Here I will discuss it only with one particular example because it may come up in other dimensions in later presentations on the book. I may have mentioned a biography of Mickey Mantle I read recently, called The Last Boy. Later in the spring if you are looking for a present for Father's Day, that might be a good choice. I wrote a blog post about it not too long ago on my regular blog. Mantle was perhaps the most talented baseball player ever, but he was also a horrible alcoholic. The author of the book makes a good case that Mantle was terribly confused about his own health regarding what was genetically determined and what was of his own making. But late in the book there is a convincing case made that Mantle had huge emotional pain from some childhood experiences that justified the pain, so the drinking could be seen as a reaction to that. He needed therapy. He didn't get therapy at all, till near his death.

More generally, if we as potential designers of nudges only observe other people's behavior but don't understand their inner motives, we might be quite guilty of treating symptoms only - with the possible consequence that we make matters worse by masking the real issues.

1 comment:

  1. I typically find myself thinking very actively as I read the articles for this class, to the point where I'll end up with a notepad full of random scribblings by the time I'm done reading. This was much less so over the first Nudge reading. I don't know if this was because I put it off later than normal, or because I was distracted, or because Nudge just wasn't as stimulating, but I didn't have the typical experience of a wide array of thoughts coming so fast I have trouble actually putting them into words.