Research Lead: Supporting Self-Nudgers, the Nudge FORGOOD Ethical Framework, No Raw Data No Publication

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

Understanding Different Responses to Coronavirus

An international team of researchers rapidly deployed a survey to understand people’s perception of the coronavirus outbreak and response. They just released the initial results. With nearly 100,000 participants, they report on things like: sufficiency of government response, government truthfulness, compliance with social distancing requirements. [COVID-19 Survey]

How to Create Citizen Choice-Architects

Many nudges and interventions are designed to operate outside of the nudgees’ awareness. This article flips that idea around, adding a new tool to the behavioral scientist’s toolkit. 

“Policy-makers should consider the possibility of empowering individuals to make strategic changes in their proximate choice architecture. There is no reason why citizens should not be informed about nudges that can be turned into self-nudges and, more generally, about the design principles of choice environments (e.g., defaults, framing, cognitive accessibility). We suggest that self-nudging is an untapped resource that sidesteps various ethical and practical problems associated with nudging and can empower people to make better everyday choices.” [Behavioural Public Policy]

An Ethical Framework for Behavioral Scientists: Nudge FORGOOD

How can behavioral scientists operationalize the oft-repeated, if slightly vague, axiom “nudge for good”? In this article, the authors propose the FORGOOD ethical framework, which consists of the following seven dimensions: Fairness, Openness, Respect, Goals, Opinions, Options, and Delegation. [Behavioural Public Policy] (Readers interested in ethics may also want to explore the “Behavioral Scientist’s Ethical Checklist” and the “Emerging Ethics” section in our “Imagining the Next Decade” collection.)

No Data, No Dice

Of the 180 manuscripts the editor in chief of Molecular Brain has overseen since 2017, he’s made requests for raw data for 41 manuscripts. Of those, 21 were immediately withdrawn by the authors, 19 were rejected because they lacked sufficient raw data, and only one was accepted. More troubling, over 25 percent of the rejected publications made it into other peer-reviewed journals, many of which had “raw data upon request” policies. It’s impossible to rule out, at least in some of these cases, that the data was fabricated. A potential solution? Require raw data as a condition for publishing. [Molecular Brain]

Signing at the Beginning No Different than the End

In 2012, a team of researchers reported evidence that requiring people to sign a declaration of honesty at the top of a document, like a tax form, made them fill out the form more honestly. This idea was put into practice by a variety of organizations and government agencies. However, a team of researchers, including five of the original authors, just attempted to replicate the original study and found that signing an honesty statement at the top was no better than signing at the bottom. “Given the policy applications of this result,” they write, “it is important to update the scientific record regarding the veracity of these results.”

Where to sign seems like a simple nudge, however, “when one of the authors (Whillans) worked with a local government, they spent $15,000 of labor costs and 6 mo trying to implement this seemingly simple change,’ the authors write. “With the new data presented here, we recommend that practitioners take this finding out of their intervention ‘tool-kit’ as it is unlikely to increase honesty.” [Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences] (They authors also wrote an op-ed about the replication experience, “When We’re Wrong, It’s Our Responsibility as Scientists to Say So”)

With Freedom Comes Responsibility, Especially in Your Health Care

Health care systems around the world are under the cosh, fighting to save the lives of patients with COVID-19. The ways different countries have responded has reinvigorated the debate about how to deliver care, especially in places like the United States where private insurance is the norm and universal coverage (at least some form) is a progressive priority. This article sheds light on the drawbacks of individualistic approaches.

“In many cases, the belief that one is free, in control, and responsible can empower people to make healthy choices. Yet we suggest that a culture-wide emphasis on personal choice and personal responsibility is harming Americans’ health and well-being…. Constant exposure to the message that ‘health depends on personal choices’ obscures the ways in which health also depends on measures that individuals generally cannot affect alone … [limiting] the types of policies that are considered viable by institutions, policymakers, and voters.” [Perspectives on Psychological Science]