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Nobel Prize awarded to Richard Thaler

The 2017 Nobel Prize for Economic Sciences has been awarded to Richard Thaler. This is a prize for behavioral economics, for the importance of psychology in economic decision-making, and for “Nudge,” the famous bestseller Thaler co-authored with Nudge-it researcher Cass Sunstein from Harvard University.

Nudge 2Thaler and Sunstein’s “Nudge” idea, developed in several articles and then compiled in an easily accessible pop science book, calls for behaviourally based regulation to improve people’s health, wealth, and happiness. Today, “behavioural public policy” (as called today) is increasingly seen as an effective way of public policy making, not substituting but supporting existing policy tools to become more effective, efficient, and acceptable. The main idea is to help people make the decisions that they would make if they had full knowledge and oversight, and if they were fully self-controlled – which people are typically not!

Today, more than 200 governments use forms of “choice architecture” in designing better systems. Making the healthy choice the easy choice - using priming, framing and reminders to make the healthier options more salient. Simplifying these choices and making them attractive, social, and timely core instruments of behaviourally informed policy that has been applied to all policy areas, including public health and nutrition policy. As recently shown by Nudge-it researchers (Reisch, Sunstein & Gwozdz 2017), people in general tend to like nudges, and there seems to a marked overall approval of health nudges in many countries worldwide.

We are honoured that Cass Sunstein will speak at the Nudge-it “Policy-meets-Research Workshop” in Copenhagen in May 2018.

Lucia Reisch, CBS

Lucia A. Reisch, Cass R. Sunstein & Wencke Gwozdz (2017). Beyond carrots and sticks: Europeans support health nudges. Viewpoint article. Food Policy, 69, 1-10

Food Policy 69 (1-10)

Report of the Fifth Nudge-it meeting, Bristol 2017

24th-26th April, Bristol, report by Jess Fielding

Bristol suspension bridge 2.png40 months into the Nudge-It project, the consortium met to disseminate where the different groups are with current research and to evaluate progress of answering their research questions in a meeting in Bristol, UK. Project Leader Gareth Leng, and Bristol-based host Prof Jeff Brunstrom moderated the discussions.

On the main session day, Principal Investigators (PIs) gave progress updates on the ongoing research the consortium groups are conducting. In addition, early stage researchers (ESRs) gave short talks on their current projects and research interests to the wider group. Both the progress reviews and ESRs talks sparked lively debate amongst the consortium members but with limited time between talks this highlighted the need for a more general discussion on the second day to address and assimilate our group understanding of key concepts in the literature when we were all approaching research questions from different fields, using different techniques. Later on day 1 both the PIs and ESRs continued discussion from our previous Nudge-It meeting considering what policy recommendations could be derived from the findings of the research consortium based on the most recent research findings. This discussion highlighted the complimentary nature of using both animal models and human models to approach our understanding of factors involved in dietary choice. Many parallels were drawn between findings from these different approaches however, it is still clear that there is a need to continue to develop tasks that can be conducted in a similar fashion in both rodents and humans to draw more direct comparisons. One such technique could be the use of conditioning/ go-nogo methods which are being used in the rodent models offering a clear potential avenue for more translational studies.

Bristol suspension bridge

 

 

After the talks and discussions ended on day 1 some members of the consortium took advantage of the longer hours of daylight to explore one of Bristol’s most notable historical structures – the Clifton Suspension Bridge which first opened to the public in 1864 and continues to be used to this day. Though the weather had been sunny it quickly descended into rain, and even some sleet, though members managed to take shelter and missed the worst of it.

  Later that evening members met up to have dinner at the historic Lido which dates back to 1849 and is one of the oldest surviving Lido’s in the UK.  It first opened in in 1849, but closed and fell into disrepair. A local campaign to save the Lido, and its listing as Grade 2 by English heritage issuing saved from demolition. It has been extensively restored and reopened in 2008. Since this time, it has since become a very popular venue in Bristol not only for open-air swimming but also for its award winning restaurant, tapas bar and spa.(the inclement weather discouraged anyone from braving a dip in the year-round open-air pool!).

Bristol LidoThe Lido  on a sunny day

BRistol Lido 2The  Night time view from the Restaurant

On the second day of the meeting consortium members came together to discuss future work for the group which quickly transformed into consideration of how we should define ‘hunger’. The interdisciplinary nature of the consortium members stimulated a lively debate from hunger relating to the balance of specific neurotransmitters in the brain to a broader definition relating to appetite reduction. Though in the limited time a clear working definition was not obtained, group members have said they will set time aside to work together to create a cross-disciplinary definition to encompass all that we mean by hunger. 

 

Nudge-it team members boost their science communication skills

Young scientists from the Nudge-it attended the STEAM Summer School 2017

The STEAM summer school is a 10 day intensive science communication training course, taking the traditional STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) and including an ‘A’ for Arts. In this, its second year, the school was being held in Marathon, on the outskirts of Athens, and amongst many others was attended by 2 Nudge-it ESRs.

The event was organised and delivered by a diverse range of speakers from a variety of different backgrounds and institutions, which allowed participants to explore the range of different opportunities available in the field of science communication. The week consisted of various sessions including lectures on presentation techniques, dialogue, how to be an effective facilitator, and how to evaluate science communication initiatives. These were often followed by a range of practical activities designed to put these skills in to practice, such as designing activities aimed at school children, planning media strategies, and practicing our interview and journalism skills.


As well the lectures and practical’s during the day, the participants were also responsible for organising two evenings of entertainment. STEAM summer school 1The first required the participants to split into groups and write and perform two pieces of science theatre, as well as organise a FameLab style competition where participants had to prepare an entertaining 3 minute scientific talk for a lay audience. Those who weren’t performing were also kept extremely busy in other roles such as publicising the event to other hotel guests, writing/directing, and ensuring the overall smooth running of the evening. The pressure of putting on such as large scale event in only 3 days, whilst stressful, was also highly rewarding, and everyone learnt a lot about the complexity of event organisation, as well as performing in front of a large audience.The second event, which was towards the end of the summer school, was to organise a Bright Club style evening of scientific stand-up comedy. Considering the lack of comedy experience amongst the performers, the night was full of laughs and enjoyed thoroughly by both the participants and audience members.

Our day off involved a day trip to Athens where we received a guided tour of the Acropolis museum and the Observatory, followed by some free time. Due to the scorching hot weather, many were forced to retire to the shade of a bar for the remainder of the day!   On the penultimate day we travelled to the Odeon of Epidaurus, an ancient theatre with fantastic acoustics that is still regularly used for performances. This was followed by a workshop on using video as a science communication tool, before we completed our final practical exercise of filming and editing a short scientific film.   Overall it was a fantastic learning experience, attended by a wonderful variety of researchers, students and teachers.  I’m sure many of us will use the skills we learnt during the summer school in the future and hopefully become the next generation of science communicators!


STEAM summer school 2

 

Nudge-it talks by Prof Gareth Leng

Gareth in Turkey

 

In June, Gareth gave a plenary lecture at the annual meeting of the Turkish Neuroscience Society at Sakarya entitled “Oxytocin – the sweet hormone?” – the topic of his recent review, published in Trends in Endocrinology and Metabolism. He went on to give a public lecture at Yeditipe University in Istanbul on “The Loving Brain” covering the various behavioral effects of oxytocin.

In January he gave a lecture to The Royal Society of Medicine in London on “The determinants of food choice.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X6BtcGF-DHE