LonesomeJoey: In all of the studies you’ve conducted, what is the most outstanding fact you’ve come across that has constantly surprised you and gone against what you thought would happen?
Dan Ariely: Recently, we finished a study in a slum in Kenya where we tried to get very poor people to save a bit of money.
We gave some people financial incentives, some social pressure – but the thing that worked the best was creating a physical coin that represented their savings. That coin more than doubled their savings as compared to a 20% match.
The reason i think it worked so well was that we changed the environment in which they lived. We created a tangible representation of their savings and changed the discussion in the household.
I also find this incredibly optimistic because it means if we change the environment in which people operate, we can drive better behaviors.