Reporter's Column: The Most Effective Way to Change People’s Behavior
Reporter's Column: The Most Effective Way to Change People’s Behavior
  • Reporter Tae Jong-hyeok
  • 승인 2024.06.12 15:11
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  Have you ever seen stairs in public places that make piano sounds when you step on them? At a subway station in Seoul, ordinary stairs were modified to produce piano sounds with each step. This modification proved to be more effective in increasing people’s use of the stairs compared to any previous campaigns or advertisements. Despite previous emphasis on the exercise benefits of using stairs, the rate of stair usage among citizens did not change significantly. However, incorporating elements that captured people’s interest into the stairs surprisingly led to a gradual increase in the number of people using them. This is a representative example of the “nudge effect.”

  The word “nudge” means “to touch or push (someone or something) gently” and “to push (someone) gently with your elbow in order to get that person’s attention.” American behavioral economist Richard H. Thaler and lawyer Cass R. Sunstein redefined the word “nudge” as “guiding people to make better choices through gentle intervention without cooperation.” The nudge effect is being utilized diversely in real life, effectively altering people’s behaviors.

  For example, the sports equipment company Nike created a trash can shaped like a basketball hoop as people throw their trash on the street instead of putting it in the trash can. After replacing the trash cans on the streets with a new design, it attracted people’s attention. As a result, the amount of trash on the streets decreased dramatically. Furthermore, the effect is widely utilized for environmental protection purposes. Specifically, there are many designs for the protection of environments that induce people to voluntarily participate in conservation activities. “Time switch” that indicates electricity usage and faucets allowing users to choose the amount of water they use are common examples. By giving individuals tangible feedback on their energy or resource consumption habits and empowering them to make more conscious choices, these interventions contribute to sustainable resource management. Through such innovations, the effect continues to play a crucial role in fostering environmentally responsible behaviors and promoting a more sustainable future.

  Although the nudge effect has led to positive changes in various fields, there have been cases of abuse of the effect recently. Some companies are using the effect to generate more profits, ignoring the interests and rights of consumers. Examples of abusing the nudge effect include displaying small warnings that are harmful to consumers and making paid use appear to be free. Plus, placing hard chairs in cafes or restaurants to prevent people from staying for a long time. Additionally, social media applications tend to constantly send notifications or recommend content to users, encouraging them to spend excessive time in cyberspace. These things lead consumers to spend irrationally or lead to unwanted results.

  When the nudge effect is used in campaigns for public interest, such as environmental protection and health promotion, it can effectively change people’s behavior while guaranteeing their freedom of choice. However, some companies abuse this to deceive consumers, resulting in negative results. To become a wise consumer, it is time to pay closer attention and recognize negative marketing tactics.

  If you want to know more about the “nudge effect,” read the book “Nudge” written by Richard H. Thaler and Cass R. Sunstein.