Sometimes nudges are all around us – do you notice them?

Apr 5, 2019

What safety prompts and triggers have you noticed on roads while driving around the country? One of the most important road safety measures were implemented in the 1900s. Can you guess what it is? – Yes, it is the speed bump!

Did you know that speed bumps, humps and rumble lines act as a nudge for vehicles to slow down? As a driver, you notice this ‘obstacle’ from a distance and begin to engage the brake pedal to slow down your vehicle. 

While a nudge can help in the reinforcement of a desired behaviour or encouraging a form of behaviour, it can also help in the deterrence of a behaviour.

The behavioural cue used in this intervention is the restructuring of the environment. Through modifying the original environment (i.e. the implementation of a speed bump), a particular behaviour (i.e. vehicle speeding) is discouraged. 

The behavioural cue used in this intervention is the restructuring of the environment. Through modifying the original environment (i.e. the implementation of a speed bump), a particular behaviour (i.e. vehicle speeding) is discouraged.

But why is this a widespread and effective nudge? It is so because this simple road safety intervention incorporates several mechanisms of behaviour change, such as – reducing motivation and reducing the intention to act on the behaviour (i.e. vehicle speeding).

Another characteristic of this nudge is the fear-based appeal. As a driver approaches the speed bump, it evokes threat and fear arousals which demotivates the driver to speed as a result of the predicted consequences such as engaging in an accident. Studies have shown that speed humps, similar to roundabouts, help to reduce the incidence of accidents.

As drivers approach and witness these speed humps daily, not only does behaviour change gradually but habitual behaviour starts to form too!  In fact, this does not even have to be real humps – check out these “floating humps” in Iceland!

As drivers approach and witness these speed humps daily, not only does behaviour change gradually but habitual behaviour starts to form too!

What other nudges have you noticed around you that made you reconsider a particular undesirable behaviour?

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