What does changing the location of food in a cafeteria have in common with placing a picture of a fly in an airport bathroom urinal?
Both strategies suggest that small changes in the environment bring large changes in people’s behavior. Changes in habits that result in greater benefits for health, the economy or the care of the environment.
In the case of the cafeteria, a simple exchange of place between fruits and sweets can bring changes in people’s consumption and therefore in their health. In the case of the flies on the urinals, it just greatly improves the aim of the men who use it! But that little fly saves cleaning work and improves the look of busy airport restrooms.
This type of intervention, low cost and great results, is known in the behavioral sciences as nudge, which means little push. Knowing that people often do not behave in the most favorable way, environments can be designed that help us choose the options that maximize our well-being. Nudges that help us achieve the most convenient behaviors for ourselves and for society.
How to know if an intervention works or not? Did the men’s marksmanship improve in the airport bathroom? Do people eat more fruit with a simple change of place?
To know the answer, we need to perform experiments!
And that is what the INECO Foundation’s Institute of Neurosciences and Public Policies is dedicated to: investigating human behavior in order to transfer it to the creation of norms and public policies that are appropriate for the community.
The two examples mentioned here may seem naive, but it has been studied that knowing more about how people act allows improving the design of the environment or carrying out small interventions that lead to greater social well-being.
In Latin America, two groups seriously affected by social inequality and vulnerability have been identified: childhood and old age. However, so far, these sectors have benefited little from advances in behavioral science (or what is known as Behavioral Insights).
For this reason, the INECO Foundation, with the support of the Inter-American Development Bank, has formed a research group especially focused on social development and health policies as a critical tool in promoting innovative solutions.
The objective of this alliance is to detect problems and explore whether they can be solved with small (and inexpensive) interventions on human behavior and its environment. Study if this new “decision architecture” is effective and achieves that the results are translated into successful public policies that are easy to implement.