Sunday, February 12, 2012

Nudging on enforcement

How do we get traffic offenders and other rule violators who have been delivered fine slips to pay up their fines? More importantly, how can we increase the likelihood of getting people to pay their taxes in time?

Tim Harford draws on the findings of the research studies conducted by the UK Cabinet Office's Behavioural Insights Team,

Let’s say somebody has been fined in court but has not paid. You could send in the bailiffs. Or you could send a text message explaining that if the fine isn’t paid quickly, the bailiffs will be on their way. The Behavioural Insight team and the courts service ran a randomised trial, sending no text message to some people and a variety of text messages to others to see which approach works best. It turns out that text messages are highly effective and even more effective is a text message that mentions the miscreant’s name. The difference between no message and a personalised message is that instead of one in 20 people immediately paying up, one in three people do. That adds up to 150,000 occasions on which the bailiffs need not be called in.

This is an excellent example of how small nudges can go a long way towards improving compliance with rules. Similar interventions that leverage the cognitive impulses of human beings can be powerful facilitators in increasing supervisory effectiveness and enabling adherence to prevailing rules.

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