Has Carrots and Sticks by Ian Ayres been sitting on your reading list? Pick up the key ideas in the book with this quick summary. Does it drive you nuts when you see someone throwing trash on the ground? No one likes a litterer.
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Has Carrots and Sticks by Ian Ayres been sitting on your reading list? Pick up the key ideas in the book with this quick summary. Does it drive you nuts when you see someone throwing trash on the ground? No one likes a litterer. For this reason, many city governments levy a fine at people caught in the act of littering. But does this punishment deter bad behavior? Not really.
Despite the threat of a fine, plenty of people still toss trash around. So how can you inspire society to do the right thing?
These book summary explain which types of incentives, based on insights in human psychology, really motivate people. Importantly, you can use the same incentives to curb your own bad behavior. So, if you want to stop smoking or perhaps shed a couple of pounds, these book summary will show you the road to success. For instance, if you asked a group of friends about their personal goals, many would probably talk about things like staying healthy or saving for retirement. But when it comes right down to it, most of us forget our goals the moment we grab a candy bar or splurge on a fancy new gadget.
This is particularly evident in the behavior of drug addicts. After all, drug addicts do themselves serious physical harm in exchange for the immediate pleasure of a drug high. In general, people tend to reach for smaller but certain rewards over bigger, uncertain ones. Economist Richard Thaler asked participants in a study to choose between either receiving one apple in one year, or two apples in one year and one day. Participants gladly waited the extra day to get both apples.
Yet our logic appears to change when faced with decisions affecting the nearer future. People offered one apple today or two tomorrow invariably chose the single apple — or immediate satisfaction. Do you hate losing? People in general dislike losing something they have considerably more than they enjoy gaining something new. In a study, apes were given a choice between two situations. In the first, there were two pieces of apple, with a 50 percent certainty that one piece would be withdrawn.
In the second, there was one piece of apple, with a 50 percent chance that an extra piece would be added. Interestingly, apes consistently chose the latter situation. Even though both options effectively offered the same average amount of apple, the apes were much more attuned to the negative idea of losing a piece than they were to the positive idea of gaining one. The apes therefore chose the second situation, to avoid losing at all!
Yet humans have another way of coping with such situations. As part of his research, economist Richard Thaler built on this insight and applied it to a common problem: people not saving sufficiently for retirement.
Do you have strong willpower? Several studies have shown that humans in general have limited self-control. For instance, one study revealed that people taking a test tend to give up on a difficult puzzle much more quickly if tempted by candy before starting the test. Make the most of self-control by focusing it to change basic, singular behaviors.
But you can enhance your self-control, too. Some researchers hold that self-control is like a muscle, which can be strengthened with regular exercise. Carrot, or stick? A carrot is a reward, and a stick is a punishment. A carrot-and-stick approach is not only effective in changing behavior but also best-suited to encourage people to put long-term goals before short-term satisfaction.
So basic incentives, whether carrot or stick, can help change dog-owner lazy behavior for the better while at the same time working on a larger, long-term goal of clean sidewalks.
Yet while both reward and punishment motivate, the stick is often more effective and cheaper. We know that people hate to lose more than they love to win.
If the government wanted to encourage people to quit smoking by giving them a reward for not lighting up, then the government would essentially be paying for every unsmoked cigarette! Yet as long as a punishment is sufficiently daunting, it might never need to be doled out. So reprimanding bad behavior is the best way to ensure commitment to long-term goals. Yet for a cash fine to act as an actual deterrent, it is essential that the amount be substantial. Modest fines only put a price tag on bad behavior.
In fact, enacting such a small fine actually resulted in more tardy parents, as after paying the fine, the parents no longer felt bad about showing up late. If you knew that a fine was paid out to an organization that helped preserve ocean wildlife, would that keep you from double-parking? Probably not, as your money was actually going to a good cause. But if you knew that your parking fine would instead go to cash-rich Scientologists, as a random example, would that encourage you to more diligently follow parking laws?
Yet if a fine was to go toward something that society generally disapproved of, a potential lawbreaker might make more of an effort to avoid fines by breaking fewer rules. We know that our addiction to now dramatically predisposes us to seeking immediate rewards over longer-term goals. This means that people who try to change their behavior for the better, like quitting smoking, end up in a vicious cycle of many small temptations that they struggle and often fail to resist.
For instance, cigarette taxes have little effect on the number of smokers because the added cost for each pack is too insignificant to represent an effective punishment for smoking. A better option would be to enact instead one large punishment. One big stick gives a person pause, and is much more likely to deter a smoker in a moment of temptation. While a smoker might be able to stomach a few bucks with each pack, the enormous cost of a permit could quickly curb behavior at a stroke.
And in the end, this big stick would prevent a crippling addiction from causing long-term damage. Sticks and carrots offer effective incentives for curbing bad behavior.
Yet we also need effective tools to overcome our addiction to now. One way to do this is to make an agreement with yourself, called a commitment contract. Commitment contracts offer a formal way of taking undesirable behavior off the table. For a contract to really make an impact, the punishment for not following through has to be as serious as the bad behavior the contract addresses. Thus severe punishment and public exposure is what will keep you in line. For instance, the drug Antabuse helps people avoid drinking alcohol by giving them an immediate hangover as soon as they have a drink.
Commitment contracts should also incorporate a degree of public exposure. But why exactly is that needed? What our friends and colleagues think of us often drives our behavior. We react to social pressures by behaving in ways to protect ourselves from ridicule. For example, a professor committed himself to losing weight by saying he would teach class wearing a swimsuit if he failed to meet his goal.
While his idea was extreme, it was effective! Finding an impartial referee is another element in establishing an effective commitment contract. The success of every contract relies on a reliable authority who can ensure the application of agreed-upon punishments for bad behavior.
Without a referee, punishment can easily be avoided. Say you want to enact drastic, permanent change, such as losing a lot of weight. For instance, most obese people who decide to lose weight aim to do so by working toward significantly shedding more than 10 percent of their current weight.
But reducing your weight by some 10 percent is a serious task! Most dieters often lose a lot of weight quickly, only for their success to be short-lived. If you check in with dieters with such lofty goals after a year, many will have failed completely. So to enact long-term change — that is, losing weight and keeping it off — you need to set realistic goals. In this case, a goal of losing 5 percent of your current weight would be much more do-able. You also need a long-term commitment contract to suit them.
For instance, a commitment contract for a dietary goal is usually based on the one-time loss of a certain amount of weight. Therefore, an additional commitment contract is necessary to ensure that a dieter then keeps the weight off. Such a contract should address things like a daily commitment to weight control, a punishment for exceeding a certain weight and a weight range in which the dieter is expected to naturally fluctuate.
Only by making long-term commitment contracts like that can you reach your goals and stick with them! We are slaves to now and often forgo long-term benefits to indulge in immediate rewards.
The next time you decide to make a major life change like quitting smoking, losing weight or saving money, make sure you follow through by drafting a commitment contract.
The Power of Habit explains how important a role habits play in our lives, from brushing our teeth to smoking to exercising, and how exactly those habits are formed. The research and anecdotes in The Power of Habit provide easy tips for changing habits both individually as well as in organizations.
The book spent over 60 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list. Carrots and Sticks Key Idea 1: We tend to favor small, immediate rewards over bigger, long-term ones. The future is too uncertain! What is it about bad habits that are so hard to break? Carrots and Sticks Key Idea 2: We hate losing more than we like winning. For many, saving for retirement is like losing money. In fact, the same phenomenon has been observed in primate behavior.
Ian Ayres on Carrots and Sticks
Your email address will not be published. Big Ideas. The commitments that would be the most effective are often not the ones we would want to commit to in the first place. Hence we need to do it over and over again Loss aversion is much bigger motivator than a potential gain Commitment contracts should change your present self and your future behavior as well. These 2 requirements are in tension Using our social Networks for commitments: Humiliation as a stick Using nagging as a stick Social contracts matter. Who learns of your failure or success matters.
Carrots and Sticks Summary and Review
Sep 21, Minutes Buy. Would you finally set up your billing software if it meant that your favorite charity would earn a new contribution? From giving up cigarettes to increasing your productivity at work, you may simply have neglected to give yourself the proper incentives. As co-founder of the website stickK. As fascinating as it is practical, as much about human behavior as about how to change it , Carrots and Sticks is sure to be one of the most talked-about books of the year.
Carrots and Sticks Summary
Carrots and Sticks is the bible of behavior, incentives and self-control. These blinks will explain how you can swap out bad habits with rewards, punishments and formal commitments to yourself. In addition to cofounding the commitment contract website StickK. Upgrade to Premium now and get unlimited access to the Blinkist library. The Blinkist app gives you the key ideas from a bestselling nonfiction book in just 15 minutes. Available in bitesize text and audio, the app makes it easier than ever to find time to read.
29:[Self Help] Carrots and Sticks – Ian Ayres
Start growing! Boost your life and career with the best book summaries. For example, so many people want to lose weight, yet they give in to their cravings. Alternatively, they want to quit smoking but never do.