Undergraduate nudges

The TSEconomist was glad to be invited to the presentations of the new undergraduate (L2) behavioural economics class. The students were all very keen and proud of their work, one group claiming “On fait du vrai nudge” [we do proper nudges]. Each group had to present their idea for a nudge that would make the world a better place. The projects ranged from very local to global initiatives, here is a brief description of each.

On Campus nudges:

One of the nudges that is sure to resonate with many students was aimed at stopping people from leaving their belongings at the library to save their place whilst they go to class or to lunch, etc. They created a poster entitled “sharing is caring” and going on to say that if you are one of these students, you are part of the reason 40% of students cannot find a place. There is a policy saying people’s belongings will be moved if unattended for 30 minutes or more, but it is not enforced. They concluded their poster with “if you want to change the world, start with yourself.” Their nudge would be implemented by similar posters, to make people realise the impact of their decisions on other students.

Another campus-based nudge was aimed at encouraging students to eat less meat (for health, economic, and environmental reasons). They proposed three nudges in the RU, the first being a meat and non-meat queue where vegetarian meals could result in shorter waiting time.

The second was distributing bookmarks with the exact cost of producing a kilo of a given meat. The third was putting a container of water at the entrance of the RU containing the quantity of water used to produce the meat in their meal.

Another team tried to get people to eat more fruit, with various different proposed nudges, for instance reducing the price in the canteen, or adding them to a menu without additional cost.

Environmental nudges:

Many of the nudges had an environmental theme; one was aimed at cutting down shower times (and saving water), by installing a timer in the shower, it wouldn’t cut off the water, rather the person could see if they are going over a certain length of time, aiming to push people to spend less time showering, while making them more aware of the direct and environmental costs of their shower. They base this nudge on a certain element of fun (racing against the clock), as well as on conformity and self image (people will presumably feel guilty if they go over the time).

A nudge called Eco’Move aimed at encouraging people to pollute less by driving less. Their suggestion is an app that would monitor people’s “eco performance”: how much they drove, walked, or used public transport. They want to capitalise on network effects and competition between circles of friends with direct comparisons with how others are doing with their pollution reduction.

Another suggestion is to make bins more fun, by inserting a speaker that would thank people for properly disposing of their waste. This nudge’s group claims that it will encourage people to stop littering, aiming to increase social pressure.

Other nudges:

One group tried to introduce a nudge to make people look up from their smartphones when crossing the road, to lower their risk of getting hit by a car or bicycle.Their nudge design involves appealing to people’s narcissism: a mirror speed bump, so to speak. As they approach the crossing, there is a reflective surface slightly elevated (not enough to trip people), where people see their reflections (and so it draws their attention to a message on the surface, telling them to look up. They discuss other attempts at this, like a similar mechanism in the Netherlands, whether the zebra crossing or the bit just before the road lights up with the colour of the light (green or red).

One group suggests a potential solution for children making too much noise on trains by creating a kid zone where they can play on the train, where children under 11 will be allocated by default when their ticket is booked.

In the wake of the #Metoo campaign, one group designed a poster aimed at sexual predators, with the slogan “Et si j’étais ta soeur, tu le ferais quand même” [what if I was your sister, would you do it then], the goal being to make people think about their actions, by directly addressing them informally (using tu instead of vous).


You can find all the posters at the following link:


For further information, please contact Prof. Astrid Hopfensitz.

by Tristan Salmon


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