Philip Oreopoulos, Richard Patterson, Uros Petronijevic, Nolan Pope, 20 November 2018

Time studying is strongly correlated with grades earned, but the amount of time that students spend studying has declined dramatically. This column describes an intervention at three higher education campuses that offered coaching and help for students to plan their time. Students were highly engaged, but there was no effect at all on their grades. This is consistent with previous results that suggest this type of intervention does not change student behaviour in a sustained and meaningful way.

Beryl Chang, Fabrizio Ghisellini, 21 May 2017

Behavioural economics has identified phenomena that standard models could not explain. But its critics warn that it is becoming little more than a ‘pile of quirks’. This column argues that the future development of behavioural economics should focus on a streamlining process that will clarify core issues, fill conceptual gaps, and create tractable models. Behavioural models will only become a coherent alternative to homo economicus if this process occurs.

Ben Vollaard, 16 June 2016

The situations we find ourselves in determine our behaviour far more than we realise.  To show the relevance of this idea to fellow economists, this column presents a natural field experiment that was conducted in an Economics department. The experiment looks at the department members’ honesty in keeping tally of their soda can consumption in the pantry. The honesty rate is shown to depend greatly on the presence of a pen hanging down from the door of the refrigerator, indicating that situational factors are more significant determinants of behaviour than previously realised.

Matteo Galizzi, George Loewenstein, 14 June 2016

Although not a nudge, the ‘soda tax’ in the UK can nonetheless be justified in part on behavioural grounds. This column analyses the potential effectiveness of the soda tax in reducing consumption. As a behavioural instrument, the tax does not go far enough, and is in fact regressive.  A comprehensive junk food tax should be introduced instead, accompanied by nudges, ‘healthy’ subsidies, and regulation of ‘super-sizing’ practices.

Dora Costa, Matthew Kahn, 19 May 2010

How should households be encouraged to reduce electricity consumption? This column presents evidence from the US of a randomised “nudging” strategy – providing energy saving tips as well as information on electricity usage relative to neighbours. It finds that while energy conservation nudges work with liberals, they backfire with conservatives. Certain pockets of Republican registered voters actually increased their electricity consumption in reaction to the nudge.

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