cell phones

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tell you to remove the charger from the wall socket after it’s finished charging? Amol Agrawal says his Nokia phone does. Nice little reminder nudge.


Brown psychologist Steven Sloman asked his students to propose a social policy nudge grounded in behavioral science. “It turned out to be harder than expected for students to decide what counted as a nudge as distinct from a shove,” he writes the Nudge blog. “But they all succeeded in the end.” Students proposed nudges for presenting the uncertainty associated with diagnoses of mental disorders, for rationalizing the rate “at which investors sell winning and losing stocks,” and for making the expense of cigarettes and the wastefulness of leaving the tap on more salient. Sloman sends along an account of three nudges that are noteworthy for “their simplicity and their strong scientific roots.”

1. Paige Kirstein proposed a nudge to reduce use of bottled water in fast food restaurants. Her idea is that tap water should be displayed prominently on menus beside bottled water either with a price of “free” or with a nominal charge for the cup that it is served in. Paige argued that customers will increasingly choose the tap water with consequent benefits to the environment because of the direct contrast to bottled water.

2. Maia Kipman proposed an automated system to induce drivers not to text while driving (estimates are that 66% of drivers 18-24 years old practice this dangerous habit!). Maia’s system would put the phone in a special mode when the vehicle is in motion. In this mode, the telephone would work normally but incoming text messages would not be heard. Once out of the car, the phone will inform the driver if they have a message. The phone will automatically let the sender of the message know that the driver is busy and cannot attend to their message but will respond shortly. Finally, if the driver tries to send or read a text, the system would play a recording by a celebrity suggesting that doing so is not a good idea. For instance, Maia suggests that Bill Maher might be induced to record a message that says “New rule: No killing people ‘cuz you are too self-involved.” She thinks it’s important that the message change frequently and hopes that the general public would get involved in generating such messages.

3. Aaron Foo proposed a whole series of nudges to get consumers to stop abusing credit cards. One of his ideas was similar to that of another student, Chloe Swirsky. Their proposal is to take advantage of mental accounting and prior commitment to get consumers to commit to spending limits for various categories of expenditures at the beginning of each time period. The credit card company will place each expenditure in one of those categories and enforce the spending limit. For instance, if the consumer decides that they do not want to spend more than $50 on fast food that month, then the credit card will not work in a fast food location after $50 has been spent.

For a past Nudge in the classroom, click here. To professors and students working on nudges in their classrooms, please share your stories with us.

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The New York Times, while pondering whether there is a “method in cellphone madness,” finds this behavior “weird.”

When Apple and AT&T started offering the iPhone for $199, plus $30 a month for Internet access, sales shot up, even though the previous deal — $399 for the phone and $20 a month — cost less over a two-year contract.

The $199 iPhone was the 3G model. Was the additional speed worth $40?

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Gamblers in New Jersey who voluntarily ban themselves from casinos can’t take their name of the list. We thought this was exactly how the of program was supposed to work.

Using an ambulance to take someone to the emergency room for a minor ailment – like a headache – is costly. The Richmond Ambulance Authority was recently recognized for an innovative program that routes non-life-threatening calls to an emergency room nurse. Costs are down; ambulance trips are down; response time to real emergencies is down.

A cell phone service that lets you snap pictures of the food you eat, send them to a licensed nutritionist, who then responds with facts and advice about your choices.

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For the last few years, AT&T has offered customers the ability to rollover unused minutes from one month to the following month (for up to 12 months). The company has advertised the service as a way help customers avoid paying extra charges in those months when they go over their plan’s minute allowance. By framing rollover as an insurance against future overages, the option seems to have the possibility for nudging people to buying one plan above what they think they might need on a monthly basis. The rollover frame suggests that unused minutes aren’t actually “lost.” They are actually “saved” to be used for a rainy day in the future. We bet AT&T knows the answer to this question. We wish they would give their data to a behavioral economist for some analysis.

Why not let cell phone customers buy used minutes from each other?

Here’s another idea for AT&T, or for any other interested cell phone company: Create a market where customers can buy unused rollover minutes from each other. Overage charges are a giant revenue source for cell phone companies, but they could advertise the internal minute market as a way to grow their customer base. And, of course, companies could charge a percentage fee for each exchange a la Ebay. Companies might consider putting some limits on the amount of minutes that could be purchased or sold by their customers.

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Some laws are self-enforcing. Others are not. Cell phone driving bans are apparently in the others category. From MSN:

Increasingly, states are banning drivers from using handheld cell phones, but that doesn’t mean people are listening. With little knowledge or enforcement of the bans in some states and no insurance penalties for many drivers, it’s not clear whether the laws are much of a deterrent.

Cell phone bans are becoming more popular as the evidence mounts that driving while holding a cell phone and talking increases increases driver distractions, which leads to more wrecks.

Continue reading the post here.

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