Posts Tagged ‘education’

Assorted links

December 2, 2009

1) A classroom nudge for college professors. Include one lie in each lecture and ask students to point out the error. They’ll pay attention to the material more closely.

Hat tip: David de Souza

2) Enviromedia, friend of the Nudge blog and the creator of, a tool for ferreting out misleading green ads, has unveiled a new web site,, to help people decode the language of climate change. The United Nation’s climate change conference is this month in Copenhagen.

3) Philadelphia now requires that lenders and homeowners meet in person prior to foreclosure. Will these meetings lessen foreclosure rates?

Hat tip: Christopher Daggett

4) Tips for remembering your reusable grocery bag.

Hat tip: Katie Astofer

5) Because it’s just too good to resist. From a 1952 Life magazine.

Hat tip: Thought Gadgets

A parent’s nudge for her daughter’s study habits

February 16, 2009

Reader Dawn Jacksland has created a nudge to make sure her daughter does her homework.

In order to help our teenage daughter remember to do homework before computer time, we add a login to her password login. It asks her first if she has finished her homework and if the answer is yes then she can get to her password login. Simple. Easy. Effective. By having to answer yes or no she is thinking about it every time she wants to use the computer. Many times we have seen her stop and head to her desk. She had forgotten some work that she needed to do.

A reader comes up with an ascetic nudge to help him get into college

January 13, 2009

Courtesy of Felipe Insunza, an economics student at São Paulo University in Brazil.

To be admitted to any Brazilian university, especially one of high quality, students must pass a difficult exam that covers all the subjects taught in high school. The test covers basic subjects like math, Portuguese, biology, chemistry, physics, English, history, and geography. But, there are also very specific themes like botany, zoology, genetic, Mesopotamian history, analytic geometry, and stoichiometry, that students have to understand in order to do well on the exam. The competition for admission is intense – 20 to 30 candidates for every vacancy. Three factors largely determine your score. Do you have a good memory? Do you have strong study habits? Are you able to control your emotions?

After a one year of study, I won a spot in the Economics graduation, reaching the first collocation among more than 2,000 competitors. Along the way, I developed a self-punishment nudge to help me study more consistently.

For each subject, I had to study I had a little notebook. There were 25 subjects. There were 5 classes each day. For each subject, I carried a notebook with me to school. When I came home I had to study the themes taught in all of my classes. I also had the notebooks for subjects that did not have a class that day. Each afternoon, I studied yesterday’s subjects and today’s. If I did not study a subject, I hauled that notebook to school the next day in my backpack – even if I did not have class.

Whenever I had a backache, I said to myself, “You have to study more.” I knew I would be tempted to procrastinate. People think it’s better to study today, but we tend to think that will be easier to do that tomorrow, so we postpone, and then regret. I think that with this nudge, I created a short run trade-off between pain and laziness. If you want to sleep all day long your spine will be upset with you the next day.

The strange power of the free test score report

January 12, 2009

Amanda Pallais, a Ph.D. Candidate in Economics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, is currently working on research about how small changes in how test score reports are sent to colleges can affect student behavior. Pallais kindly agreed to discuss her findings thus far in a guest post.

By Amanda Pallais

Picking the right colleges to apply to is a daunting challenge. Students must choose one of over 2^2,400 combinations of colleges (and that just includes four-year schools in the U.S.), while facing great uncertainty about the costs and benefits of attending each college. Even deciding how many schools to apply to is not easy. Students looking for a rule of thumb can find one in an unexpected place—the number of colleges to which they can send their standardized test scores for free.

I’ve been looking at one college entrance exam in particular, the ACT. The ACT is especially popular in the U.S. Midwest and more students actually take the ACT than the SAT each year. In the fall of 1997, the ACT Corporation increased the number of free score reports it provided from three to four; additional score reports still cost $6. While the difference in the cost of sending four score reports dropped by only $6, the student response was enormous.

As you can see from the two charts below, I find that before the change, over 70% of students sent their ACT scores to exactly three colleges, while less than 5% sent their scores to four. Afterwards, less than 10% of students sent three score reports and approximately 60% sent four. As a result, 23% of students sent an additional application. Over the same period, there was no similar change in the number of score reports sent by students taking the SAT.

Number of ACT Score Reports Sent


Number of SAT Score Reports Sent


What caused the large response to the fourth free score report? It was not the $6. If it were, students should be equally responsive to a $6 decrease in application fees. But I find there is no relationship between changes in a college’s application fees and in the number of applications it receives. Instead, students are likely reacting to an implicit rule of thumb about how many colleges to apply to. They may interpret the number of free score reports the ACT provides as an indication of the number of score reports it recommends sending. This is consistent with the results of other economists who have looked at choices of 401(k) and prescription drug plans.

The change in student behavior is not just an interesting artifact. It has real world consequences that can permanently affect these students. Sending an additional score report could have large benefits for low-income students in particular. I very conservatively estimate that by increasing the probability that a low-income student attends college and attends a selective college, sending an additional score report could increase her lifetime earnings by over $6,000. She might also be more likely to end up at a school that’s a better fit for her personally. All of this, because of a simple $6 change.

The paper that this post is based on is titled, “Why Not Apply? The Effect of Application Costs on College Applications for Low-Income Students.” The full version can be found here.

Question for teachers: How do you nudge students to work harder?

July 23, 2008

High school English teacher and reader Nate Stearns poses three questions to Nudge blog readers:

  1. Would struggling students work harder if they were placed in a classroom with hard-working students?
  2. Would students work harder if they did all their work inside a classroom instead of relying on homework?
  3. Does immediate feedback affect work ethic? Do students respond differently to instant electronically graded quizzes or essays than to those that are graded by teachers, one-by-one and returned a week later?