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1) Google’s PowerMeter is dead. Long live Google’s PowerMeter. Thoughts on why it didn’t take off here.

2) Choice overload at a young age. (See page 4 and markers)

3) Morningstar on “The Benefits of a Financial Nudge

4) FICO scores for medical adherence?

5) Early prognosis for tax receipt. It doesn’t much change how Americans feel about paying their taxes.

6) The Winner’s Curse in its most basic form: Spending $28 for a $25 gift card as part of an Ebay auction.

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Prius owners.

Snapshot, the usage-based automobile insurance program, offered by Progressive calculates rates based on three criteria that are largely out of a driver’s control. Mileage traveled, time of day you drive, and speed of braking. That last category is an opportunity for Prius owners, old and new, to showcase the habits they’ve picked up while paying attention to the car’s feedback display. Among Prius drivers, the display has sparked changes in driving behavior out of a concern for saving gas.

“Once you start making fuel consumption more visible, you have something that comes to the forefront of people’s minds instead of lurking in the background,” said Sarah Darby, a researcher who studies energy feedback technologies at the University of Oxford’s Environmental Change Institute. The monitors “show the consequences of your actions,” she says. “This gives you feedback that alters actions, and encourages you to try and improve things.”

In the Prius and other hybrids with energy displays, drivers can see what specific actions mean for their mileage. In some ways, it is like children learning to color in between the lines, with the teacher standing over their shoulders. Aggressive acceleration after a stoplight — that’s bad. The monitor will show mpg going down. Suddenly slamming the brakes — also bad. Coasting to a stop — good. That tactic lets the engine shut down, saving gas.

Looks like insurance rates could be an added bonus.

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1) Cass Sunstein writes in the Wall Street Journal about new money-saving regulations.

2) Disney creates scarcity with its content.

3) New MPG labels for cars will include information about greenhouse gases.

4) A call for the Indian government to think about behavioral economics.

5) Traffic light interest rates – A heuristic for microfinance loans.

6) The U.K. government wants to make digital delivery a default. Hat tip Amol Agrawal.

7) Choice Architecture in the Wild Pt. 12 by Jonathan McDonald.

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The right message does little good if it doesn’t reach anyone. Here a creative conservation message from the South African utility company Eskom. The billboard looks great in this photo, but does it work well out in the world? Hard to tell from here since the origins of this image are unknown. But there are reasons to be skeptical. The effect of the message only resonates at night. That’s half a day reaching people – lost (it would be great during an Alaskan winter). It’s hard to tell where this billboard is, but if it’s on a road for day time commuters, again, the effect is lost. The sign doesn’t look to be in a high-density urban location where it could at least benefit from nighttime foot traffic.

Bottom line: This message probably works better as a photo in a subway station than as an actual billboard on a country road. So let’s hope it’s not real.

Hat tip: Hebert Samuel and Brian Keene

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1) Asked about what scientific concept would improve everyone’s cognitive toolkit, “Richard Thaler proposes attaching the word “aether” to substitute for any variable that is asserted rather than proven — so, “business aren’t investing because of aether,” as opposed to “businesses aren’t investing because of uncertainty,” writes Ezra Klein.

2) French government develops strategies for “green nudges.” Pdf of paper is here. Hat tip: Olivier Oullier

3) Progress Energy in North Carolina will begin showing people how their energy usages compares with that of their neighbors. Hat tip: Environmental Economics.

4) Impulse saving in India (at the end of the article).

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The photo above comes to us from Austin, Texas. Notice anything odd? Here’s a hint: The blue bin is for recycling; the green bin is for garbage.

The blue bin is a lot bigger.

The recycling-bin-to-garbage-bin ratio in Austin stands in stark contrast to ratios in most American cities. For example, Alexandria, Virginia, provides residents with a garbage bin (shown below) that is nearly three times the size of the recycling bin.

Austin’s Pay-As-You-Throw (PAYT) garbage program is a great example of implementing physical choice architecture and providing incentives for residents to recycle. It’s similar to the program in Fort Collins, Colorado, that a Nudge blog reader told us about last year. The program allows residents to choose the size of garbage bin that best fits their needs. The smaller the bin, the less the resident pays. Residents are encouraged to recycle more through the city’s single-stream recycling program (blue bin) and pay for the smallest garbage bin that will accommodate their weekly waste. A 90-gallon bin cost about twice the price of the smallest 30-gallon bin. Austin will roll out an even smaller garbage bin (21-gallon) soon.

The bigger bin, smaller bin approach isn’t unique to cities. The The Texas Facilities Commission (TFC) is in the process of implementing miniMAX, a centralized trash/recycling program, in all TFC-managed facilities. The program will affect over 20,000 state employees, providing them recycling bins with attachable mini-bins for garbage. TFC explains the program:

To increase recycling rates in an office environment, where the vast majority of refuse is recyclable, the small size of the mini-bin acts as a visual yield sign for employees when they discard something.

Hat tips: Nelda, Stacy Guidry, Levi Lainhart

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Too bad. Otherwise, they might try a different message.

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The “Remember These Come from Trees” stickers have become a common sight on paper towel dispensers in bathrooms around the U.S. Now a U.K. company called Hu2 has come up with a series of Eco Reminder stickers for light switches designed to make the connection between energy and the environment more concrete. They aren’t as cheap as the “These Come from Trees” stickers, but the designs have a finer aesthetic element to them – although, in the end, that doesn’t necessarily translate into more behavioral change.

Hat tip: Marian Leo

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Reader Elaine Wang sends along this report, originally posted, she says, on a friend’s Facebook page. It’s a version of the grocery cart choice architecture idea applied to recycling.

In my former city (Fort Collins, CO), they decided to switch things around so that recycling went in the big 90 gallon container, and everyone got a small 35 gallon container for trash. Everyone who was previously filling up just a small bin of recycling suddenly started filling up the 90 gallon and NOT having as much trash, so the 35 gallon for trash was just fine. Turns out, people only recycle as much as you give them space to recycle. If you make their trash capacity smaller and give them unlimited room to recycle, they will remember to recycle SO much more. It was awesome. I was even shocked at my own recycling efforts!

We’d love to know more about this initiative from our readers in Colorado – and elsewhere!

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