Small changes can net big results.
Barack Obama is our first “nudge” president — he’s a fan of behavioral economics’ sometimes-simple tweaks for helping people make healthier and more forward-looking decisions, like the classic example of having employees automatically enroll in 401(k) savings plans unless they explicitly choose not to. Last year, he set up the Social and Behavioral Sciences Team, a White House initiative to look at ways to help government agencies apply these principles to what they do, and yesterday it released its first annual report, which has some useful examples of nudge principles in action.
The report runs down a series of what are effectively experiments designed to gauge the effects of making various tweaks to the wording and user interfaces government agencies use. The results varied, but there’s some promising stuff here.