THIS WEEK'S FEATURE ARTICLES
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Nudge, nudge; think, think
Ever heard the church bells ringing and thought to yourself, “Oh, maybe I should have gone to church”? That’s a nudge. It made you think, and you made a choice. When you’re stuck in a side street and someone waves you into a steady line of traffic, that driver’s generosity is likely to encourage you to do the same for another. That’s also a nudge. Ever had a dig in the ribs from your partner – a ‘here comes that pest again!’ dig that prompts you to look the other way, or turn to face ‘the pest’ graciously? That’s a nudge too, and once again you made your choice. The Australian Oxford Dictionary defines a nudge as ‘a push, especially with the elbow, to draw attention privately’. Roget’s Thesaurus takes it a little further: it’s a prompt, a hint, a suggestion, even a kick, all to draw attention to something the nudger considers important. In 2008 American academics Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein collaborated to write what would become an extremely popular book, ‘Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth and Happiness’. Richard Thaler went on to develop this theory in practical applications, and in 2017 he was awarded the Nobel Economics Prize for championing the concept of nudging people through subtle changes to government policy.
So what’s it all about? Now known universally as the Nudge Theory, it’s seen as a flexible and modern change-management concept.
It’s based on understanding how people think and make decisions, helping people to improve their thinking and consequently make better decisions, and identifying and modifying unhelpful influences. Sound a bit paternalistic? Some civil libertarians agree. However, Thaler and Sunstein argue that while desirable nudging prompts people to make better decisions, it does not interfere with their freedom to choose. With luck, the thinking person will recognise the nudge, consider its implications – good, bad, helpful, useless – and choose appropriately.
Take the hint
Trust the Dutch! When we spotted an interesting piece of Delft in that famous town, we added it to our purchases. It’s a blue-and-white (of course) tile depicting a small boy at the toilet, with an accompanying verse encouraging him to aim true. The Dutch are known as arguably the most pragmatic and cleanliness-oriented of all people, so it’s no surprise that they also came up with a clever idea to encourage fellows to aim true, and keep the airport toilets clean. This nudge goes a step beyond a Delft tile, and was first
used at the Amsterdam airport. Into each urinal a fly was etched near the drains, something to aim at, and – no surprise – spillage onto the floor was reduced by 80%. In 2012 the UK government, concerned over low rates of personal superannuation investment, mandated that all workers would have contributions automatically deducted from pay packets, unless they requested otherwise. Within five years active membership had increased by five million people. As applied here, the Nudge Theory assumed that everyone wanted to be better off at retirement, but inertia and perhaps fear of a complicated process had stopped them from acting positively. Similarly, Spain has become the world leader in organ donation simply by assuming that most people want to be altruistic but just don’t get around to registering. So Spain switched to an opt-out organ donation system, a little nudge that worked wonders for the good of society. And other countries have followed suit. Then there’s the hospital cafeteria in Massachusetts that colour-coded food choices, with red being least healthy and green most healthy. They also put the green labels at eye level, the red lower down. Sales of healthy options increased and within two years the sale of soft drinks dropped by almost 40%. Richard Thaler’s favourite nudge is a London street sign that reminds pedestrians which direction the double-decker buses are coming from. He says it’s saved his life on several occasions. He also says that ‘nudges’ that benefit society need to be gentle and transparent and easy to opt out of. The UK, Germany and Japan, among others, have set up Behavioural Insights Teams, nick-named ‘nudge units’, to identify where there’s a need for similar policies. Several other countries are following this initiative with
Big Brother may not always be benevolent
We’re getting used to nudges – online browsers know well those not-so-subtle advertisements pushing something we never knew we’d be interested in. But well before exploitation by Internet, there were clever merchants whose advertising led us where we never thought we needed to go. Everyone has to make a living – but wouldn’t we like a little more say in how our choices are manipulated? An awareness of the Nudge Theory, and an understanding of how it can work both for our good and that of society, or simply exploit us to no good end, is the first step. Impulse buying, for instance, and mindless acceptance of political and economic agenda are just
a couple of ways we can be nudged, especially if they’re not – as Richard Thaler would like – transparent, favourable to our welfare, and easy to opt out of. Still looking for a New Year’s Resolution? Nudge, nudge; think, think!
The little chef: EBONY BRELLO
Healthy raspberry chocolate chip banana bread
It goes without saying, December is the month of food. With boxes of Christmas chocolates on the shelves at your supermarket, fresh mince pies looking deviously mouthwatering at the bakery, and the guiltiest of them all, the huge table of food on Christmas Day.
Now that December has come and gone and we’re coming in strong for the new year, we’re all looking for ways to shake off the food comas and kickstart into healthier eating. But it’s hard to let sweet things go after being spoilt all month, right? Which is why this incredibly moist banana bread recipe that is bursting with flavour will help you curb those cravings without all of the added calories. Practically guilt free. Cheers to the new year!
1½ cups whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
⅓ cup coconut sugar
¼ cup coconut oil, melted
¼ cup plain Greek yogurt
2 large eggs, lightly beaten, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
3 very ripe bananas, peeled and mashed. The blacker the better! (Will yield about 1¼ cups of mashed banana.)
1 cup raspberries, fresh or frozen (if using frozen, do not thaw first)
½ cup mini dark chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 175 C. Lightly spray a 9 x 5 loaf pan with non-stick spray and line with baking paper. Set aside.
Using a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, ground cinnamon and nutmeg until just combined. Set aside.
In a separate large bowl, combine sugar, oil, Greek yogurt, eggs and vanilla, beating until combined. Stir in the overly ripened mashed bananas. *The ripeness of the bananas adds extra moistness and sweetness so don’t be afraid to use those uneaten speckled bananas that have been sitting on the kitchen bench for a few days.
Add in the dry ingredients mixture and stir until combined. Fold in the raspberries and dark chocolate chips. *If you’re feeling daring, milk chocolate chips can be used instead, but dark chocolate comes with all benefits such as boosting your brain power, fighting cholesterol and aiding blood pressure.
Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan, making sure to smooth the top with a spoon or spatula. To bake the loaf perfectly, cook for 1 hour or until a toothpick inserted in the centre of the loaf comes out clean. Allow bread to cool in the pan for 15 minutes before transferring the bread to a wire rack to cool completely. Slice
**This banana bread recipe can be frozen and kept for up to 2 months. At room temperature if stored in an airtight container, the bread can be consumed for up to 3 days.
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