Amsterdam’s Schipol Airport famously had pictures of little black house flies etched into the porcelain, near the drains in each of the urinals in the men’s rest rooms. “Spillage” (men are notoriously bad at aiming) was reduced by 80%.
School cafeterias in many countries including the US have experimented with placing desserts at the front of the food line, the back, and on separate counters. They have also tried putting the yogurt and fruit right up front, with the chips and other junky items last on the food line. Such positioning has always resulted in kids making better food selections.
These little tricks of manipulation are known as “Choice Architecture” – reorganizing the context in which we make our decisions. Look at your supermarket layout the next time you shop, or the layout of any retail store. Odds are, you have to walk the farthest to get the most critical item on your list. Milk and eggs are always at the back. At my market, I have to walk through the fresh baked desserts to get to the toilet paper aisle. This isn’t random.
Companies are increasingly using Choice Architecture with their customers, and with their own employees. If you are a subscriber to my newsletter, watch for my upcoming review of the book “Nudge – Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness” (Thaler and Sunstein). If you aren’t already a subscriber to my newsletter, click here to SUBSCRIBE NOW, for more on this interesting new business tactic.