30 September 2014

Nudging by Repulsion: When Evolutionary Psychology Meets Nudge

A few weeks ago, my beloved wife and I received the visit of her mother, sister, brother in law and one year old nephew. As you can imagine having a small child in the house is a radical paradigm shift for someone who doesn’t have children and some things needed to be (re)moved so that the baby will not hurt himself.

Our nephew behaved himself, well, as much as a one year old boy can. 

However, the electricity sockets (plugs) were very very attractive for him. 

Although I am all in favour of letting kids explore and nurturing their inherent curiosity, I am totally freaked out when a child approaches an electric socket. Whereas touching the cooking stove can result in a nasty burn, sticking one’s small fingers in a socket results in certain death.

A couple of weeks after our guests went (to their) home, I was reading about evolutionary psychology, particularly about beauty and sexual attraction and an idea struck. It wasn’t about sex, but about how babies and small children can be nudged to avoid electric sockets.

Here are some very rough prototypes.

The logic is that (almost) all humans are hard-wired to feel repulsion and avoid things like spiders, rats and snakes. 

We do not need to learn to fear and avoid them. On the other hand, electric sockets aren’t repulsive and we need to teach small children to avoid them.

By placing the pictures with naturally (evolutionary) repulsive things on dangerous novel things, it will / would be natural for children to avoid them.

This is an idea that needs to be tested, so this is not an advice!

I’m looking for some partners to test this idea in a scientifically proper manner. Volunteers please leave a comment.   

Later edit:

An early adopter in France (Claudiu) sent this photo :)

Even Later edit:

Early evidence does not support the Hypothesis. Though this is a sample of one and the spider was more sketchy than vivid. Thank you  Claudiu for this photo :)

Further research is needed (at least to have a larger sample). 

Dear reader(s), DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME!
In this post I proposed a hypothesis. Although the theory supports it, this is not an empirically proven fact. 

So, if you want to experiment with this, make sure that you are not using sockets connected to electricity.

If you are a researcher with access to a proper lab and you are willing to test this hypothesis, please get in touch with me :)

1 comment:

Graham Clark said...

Perhaps it will only work if the fear has already been put there....Check out the study 'Little Albert' by John B Watson & Rosalie Rayner (1920)...