How the World Bank is ‘nudging’ attitudes to health and hygiene | Source: The Guardian, March 4 2016 |
Nudge theory has been used to identify why people smoke or fail to pay taxes on time, can it now be used to fight malnutrition and open defecation?
Every two months, 800 women gather in a church courtyard in the village of Tritriva, Madagascar, to receive cash from the Malagasy government. Mothers of six- to 10-year-olds get the payment only if their children have regularly attended school. For those with children under five, it’s unconditional – but they are given information about family health and nutrition.
With more than half of Madagascar’s children chronically malnourished, it is vital these women take note. But the problem is not just financial. Breaking long-term habits, such as spending the bulk of your income on rice, is extremely difficult – especially, according to recent research, for those living in extreme poverty.
This is where nudge theory comes in. It is about using insights from behavioural science to identify reasons why people make bad choices, such as smoking or failing to pay taxes on time, and then testing small changes in the way choices are presented to “nudge” them into making better decisions. In the school example above, it was about optimising how these families spent the money they received from the government.
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