Research Lead: New Guide for Ethical Design, Eating and Banking Your Values, “Funemployment,” and more

You’re reading the Research Lead, a monthly digest connecting you to noteworthy academic and applied research from around the behavioral sciences.

New guide for the ethical design of digital products

Responses in our collection “Imagining the Next Decade of Behavioral Science” made it clear that the ethics of applied behavioral science are top of mind for many. A new book offers a perspective on ethics from a digital design perspective. The Ethical Design Handbook aims to help designers “craft better digital products without dark patterns: products that respect customer choices and are built and designed with ethics in mind.” [The Ethical Design Handbook; Read Chapter 1, Book Overview]

Crafting a “Menu for Change”

A recent report from The Behavioural Insights Team outlines 12 behavioral strategies that could contribute to a more sustainable, and healthier, food system. The report details the sustainability issues facing the food system today, explores the behavioral drivers behind these issues, and offers ideas for how the food system could evolve to help us munch in a way that’s friendlier for Mother Earth. [Behavioral Insights Team: Full Report, Executive Summary]

“Banking on what you believe”

What’s your money working toward when you’re not using it? A new report by ideas42 examining the links between the banking industry and climate change suggests there’s a good chance it is funding fossil fuel investment. This is a problem if you’re concerned about climate change. The report highlights three behavioral barriers preventing people from more sustainable banking: not recognizing the link between banking and climate change, not considering banking as a route to social change, and, finally, the pesky action-intention gap. It also offers examples of companies that are breaking the traditional banking model, like Aspiration, which “offers socially-conscious and sustainable cash management services and investment products.” [ideas42: Full Report, Executive Summary]

It’s not called “funemployment” for nothing

Traditionally, research has shown that being unemployed leads to a dip in well-being. New research, however, adds an important wrinkle. Well-being may dip only if you’re in a tight financial situation. Finding yourself unemployed but still stable financially could even lead to an increase in well-being, the study’s author, Jianbo Luo, suggests. Luo used a large database of German socioeconomic information to examine different responses to being unemployed. Luo’s research raises interesting questions about how policy ideas, like universal basic income, might affect people’s responses to being laid off or fired. (Bonus: the research reminds me of this gem from The Onion, “Health Experts Recommend Standing Up At Desk, Leaving Office, Never Coming Back.”) [Journal of Happiness Studies]

High school is stressful and boring, like really

A survey of over 21,000 students in the U.S. found that around three fourths of students reported negative feelings about school. These feelings included feeling stressed, bored, and tired. Comedian Dennis Leary wasn’t wrong then, when, way back in 1993, he warned all the kids out there via a sarcastic song about life now and in the future. [Learning and Instruction: Preprint (open), Journal (paywall)]

The price is wrong

Analyzing nearly five decades of data from the TV game show The Price is Right, John Hartley found that over time contestants have gotten worse at predicting how much products cost. On the game show, contestants are tasked with predicting the price of items, like a treadmill, a bedroom set, or a new car. Reasons for the decline may include the ease with which we access prices via ecommerce sites (we don’t bother remembering) and the speed at which companies can adjust prices (which makes staying on top of prices challenging). Another factor may be that contestants are simply deploying worse strategies, like the popular, but suboptimal, $1 bid. [Social Science Research Network. Hat tip Marginal Revolution]

There was an attempt: Guessing the price of an iPhone goes horribly wrong.

The future of behavioral science in government

“Because the expansion of the field has been so rapid, there has been relatively little time to step back and reflect on the work that has been done and to assess where the field is going in the future,” observe Syon Bhanot and Elizabeth Linos. “It is high time for such reflection: where is the field currently on track, and where might it need course correction?” These are the questions Bhanot and Linos set out to answer in their article about applying behavioral science in government. Among their recommendations for the future: “expand beyond nudges” and “quick wins,” adopt a centralized database to share results, foster open science, and increase the inclusivity of the field. [Public Administration Review]

Predicting recidivism: human vs. algorithm

A study in Science Advances reports that algorithms may beat humans when it comes to predicting who is likely to reoffend. The authors began by replicating a widely covered 2018 study that found humans and algorithms performed similarly. However, the researchers found that as the situations become more complex and the amount of information increased, the advantage went to the algorithm. “This was not because the additional risk information compromised human judgment,” the authors write. “Instead, it was because models made better use of the additional information than did humans.” (For articles relating to the human and algorithm decision-making debate, head here). [Science Advances]

Curbing mass violence in the U.S.

The journal Criminology & Public Policy features a special issue on understanding and countering mass violence. The special issue examines the causes, myths, and policy challenges of mass violence across 16 articles. [Criminology & Public Policy]

Disclosure: ideas42 is a founding partner of the Behavioral Scientist. Syon Bhanot is on the Behavioral Scientist’s Advisory Board.