SIGNS POINT TO BETTER
In 2010, the behavioral philosopher Pelle Guldborg Hansen set up the Danish Nudging Network, an NGO that partners with governments and companies to develop policies rooted in behavioral theory. Most of its ideas are still in the experimental stage, but some show promise. In one experiment conducted by the network, signs were placed next to light switches at a university saying that 85 percent of students remembered to turn off the light when the left the room. The signs led to a 20-26 percent reduction in lights being left on. In a collaboration with the city of Copenhagen, the nudgers put green footprints leading to trash cans in public spaces, which they found reduced littering by 40 percent.
Sometimes, interventions are not so successful. When the network partnered with the Danish National Railway to put arrows leading to staircases in front of station elevators -- encouraging commuters to take the healthier route of walking up the stairs -- there was almost no effect. Hansen told the Economist, "There are no social norms about taking the stairs but there are about littering."