Huge new feedback study underway soon in the U.K.

Changing behavior by simply telling people what others do is an important lesson of Nudge. A major new research project at Kingston University, the University of West England, and Swansea, is putting this lesson to more rigorous empirical tests involving cell phones and exercise, smart meters and home energy usage, and facebook and “sustainable” lifestyle choices. Participants will be given information about their exercise, energy usage, and lifestyle choices in comparison to others in the group. Says the BBC:

The research, called the Charm Project, builds on the work of academics Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein which implies that the way people are told about poor lifestyle choices influences how they react.

Instead of simply telling people to stop, it has been shown that it is more effective to reveal how one person’s behaviour ranks against their peers.

Adopting a less confrontational style can, claim Thaler and Sunstein, “nudge” people towards better choices.

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  • http://www.whoseeswhat.org.uk Stephen Whitehead

    I’m looking forward to the results of this study with interest. In the UK, we’re currently seeing the introduction of a national system of electronic patient records with online and potentially even mobile access for patients.

    If this study finds that feedback is effective at promoting behaviour change, it should be cheap and easy for the NHS to prescribe participation in a feedback programme to patients struggling to control their weight, their smoking or other lifestyle choices.

  • Jason Ambrose

    Interesting idea. So you basically just provide your population with an index or ranking compared to others in the population. I wonder what kind of results you would have if you started to offer incentives or penalties for certain results. You could even expand that idea to business leaders and make a strong case that they were being incetavised on the wrong measures as we all have painfully seen over the last few months. Maybe the index or correlation of executive compensation and stock/company value were not the best measures to use.