Sometimes it takes a nudge

?The false assumption is that almost all people, almost all of the time, make choices that are in their best interest or at the very least are better than the choices that would be made by someone else.? ?EXCERPT FROM “NUDGE” BY RICHARD H. THALER

Experiments on human behavior are in full force inside stalls of the men?s restroom at the Amsterdam, The Netherlands, airport.

If you want insight into what motivates people to make certain choices, paint images of flies near the urinal drains. After the ?flies? landed on the porcelain, the floors were 80 percent cleaner.

?Men evidently like to aim at targets,? was the explanation from Richard Thayer, professor of behavioral science and economics.

This tactic is called ?nudging.? The concept, altering someone?s behavior without being intrusive or taking away freedom of will or choices, has been around awhile. You know what they?re probably going to do out of habit, laziness or simplicity, and that?s their prerogative. What you do is add an alternative and subliminally ?nudge? them to do things another way.

Thayer wrote a book about it with a Harvard law professor, Cass R. Sunstein. It?s called ?Nudge? and in it, they list a range of ideas beyond ?aim? with tips on how to control eating, debt, driving safely, etc.

It?s already going on a bigger level. Grocery stores put the milk in the back so shoppers have to walk past all the good stuff to get to the necessities. People have no control?and other people are on to that fact.

Advertising is a way of nudging. There?s even a science to the menu format in restaurants. ?Menu design consultant? is an actual job title. They make money by studying human behavior and then write reports for publications like the International Journal of Contemporary Hospital Management.

I don?t know who normally reads them but it only took a nudge to get me to get interested.

Time magazine reported in its article, ?The Menu Magician,? about a ?menu engineer? (another paying job title), Gregg Rapp, who analyzes menu design for restaurants from all over the world.

The keys, according to Rapp, are clean lines and simple fonts with nothing too funky or out of place. Except the prices. Instead of aligning them on one side, stagger them behind each item description. This ?nudge? keeps diners from scanning down the line and ordering the cheapest thing.

The sweet spot on the menu is the top right-hand side (on a single fold size that opens like a magazine, he points out). This location is where the most expensive specialty items should be spread out with fancy descriptions and discreetly noted costs.

We, the public in general, tend to shift our attention to the top right for some reason. Remember?if you look right, you?ll spend more.

When you eat out, go shopping, see a movie, or use a public restroom, remember the new universal motto: ?We have ways of making you ____ (fill in the blank).?

We?re wish-washy. They?re onto us all. And not just in Amsterdam.

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