Psychology and ELT – Nudging

What is ‘nudging’? Broadly speaking, it is trying to influence people’s behaviour (often subconsciously) by making small changes in their environment or in the way things are done. Placement, sequencing, packaging, timing, ease or difficulty of access, options given or allowed, all these are little things which can nevertheless have a huge impact on our behaviour.
Here is an example: We all know that left to their own devices, kids will opt for unhealthy food. Gneezy & List wanted to help about 1,000 schoolchildren in Chicago improve their diet. First they tried the direct approach — giving children nutritional education, about the importance of a healthy diet, about vitamins, nutrients, preservatives, food pyramids, etc. etc. Predictably perhaps, this proved a total failure… 🙂
Then they tried ‘nudging’: for instance, they replaced whole apples with packaged apple slices (easier to eat and the peel doesn’t stick in your braces!), but what they did with the chips and cookies was simply brilliant: they placed them beyond the reach of children, so that they would have to ask the lunch lady to get them!! That did it!! (‘Who wants to ask the grouchy lunch lady for anything?’) [Gneezy & List: ‘The Why Axis’ — Random House 2013 — p. 162]
In this short clip, R. Thaler gives us two more examples: the first one is again food-related but the second is pure genius in its simplicity and effectiveness.
So this is the idea: by making small, almost imperceptible alterations in the classroom environment or in the lesson routine, I believe we can increase our effectiveness as teachers. Over to you now. Any ideas?

[NB: I do not own the copyright to this video clip. I have uploaded it here for educational purposes].

#Psychology #ELT #Nudging

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