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.