ideas42 Seminar Series

Past Sessions

October 4, 2023


Writing for Busy Readers: The Science of Effective Communication

w/ Todd Rogers, Professor of Public Policy, Harvard Kennedy School
and Piyush Tantia, Chief Innovation Officer, ideas42

Professor Todd Rogers, an ideas42 Scientific Advisor, recently released a new book, Writing for Busy Readers, offering valuable practical writing advice. Building on research in behavioral science, Todd and coauthor Jessica Lasky-Fink outline cognitive insights about how people actually read and distill them into six principles that will transform the power of your writing.

Todd joined ideas42’s Chief Innovation Officer Piyush Tantia to discuss his new book and the science behind becoming a successful communicator in a media-rich world.

May 25, 2023


Breaking Down Barriers to College Affordability
w/ Cassie Taylor, Katherine Flaschen, and Amanda Kaplan, ideas42
and Martha Johnston, Director of Education, Finance Authority of Maine

We all know that college is expensive, and increasingly so. Both the FAFSA and 529 savings plans were designed to help make college more affordable for families. But these resources are underutilized. Why?

Experts from ideas42 and the Finance Authority of Maine investigate the behavioral barriers that keep students and their families from filing the FAFSA and contributing to 529 accounts. We discuss solutions that leverage evidence-based research to promote these two key behaviors and make college more affordable for families in Maine and across the United States.

November 17, 2022


Building a Caregiver-Friendly Workplace: Sociological Insights on the Future of Work
w/ Allison Daminger, Assistant Professor of Sociology, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Parents and caregivers have long struggled to balance the demands of paid work with the responsibilities of caring for children and other loved ones. During the COVID-19 pandemic, these challenges were exacerbated—and unequally distributed along race, class, and gender lines.

University of Wisoncons-Madison sociologist (and ideas42 alum!) Allison Daminger joined us for a conversation about the hidden mental and emotional burdens caregivers bear and what individuals, managers, and companies can do to lessen and more equitably distribute this load moving forward.

October 20, 2022


Time-use and Mind-use: How "Cognitive Labor" Shapes Paid and Unpaid Work
w/ Allison Daminger, Assistant Professor of Sociology, University of Wisconsin-Madison

There’s a lot more to running a home and raising children than cooking and laundry. Before a meal is cooked, someone has to identify a recipe and make sure the ingredients are on-hand. Before the washing machine begins its cycle, someone has to remember to check the hamper and the supply of detergent.

Sociologist Allison Daminger, Assistant Professor at the University of Wisoncons-Madison (and ideas42 alum!), joined us for a conversation about this “cognitive labor” (a.k.a. “the mental load”). What is it, how is it distributed by gender, and why does it matter—not just for couples, but for colleagues and employers, too?

April 18, 2022


The Science Behind Interpersonal Influence: A Discussion With Zoe Chance
w/ Josh Wright, Executive Director at ideas42, and Zoe Chance, Assistant Professor of Marketing at Yale School of Management

ideas42 academic affiliate Zoe Chance's latest book, INFLUENCE IS YOUR SUPERPOWER: The Science of Winning Hearts, Sparking Change, and Making Good Things Happen, provides a new way for people to think about, talk about, and practice influencing others.

Adapted from her course, “Mastering Influence and Persuasion”—the most popular at the Yale School of Management—this work explores how to bolster influential abilities and affect positive change. Zoe joined ideas42 Executive Director Josh Wright to discuss the elements of behavioral economics, neuroscience, and psychology research underpinning effective interpersonal influence.

January 18, 2022


Increasing safety net program uptake through stigma reduction
w/ Elizabeth Linos, Assistant Professor of Public Policy and founder of The People Lab at the University of California, Berkeley

Government programs provide a critical safety net for millions of Americans, but their success depends on who accesses benefits. This talk will focus on the role of stigma, an often-cited, but understudied barrier to take-up of safety net programs. We show in two field experiments (N = 117,073) and three online experiments (N = 1,751) that the stigma associated with government rental assistance is a significant barrier to take-up. Yet, a one-time communication that reduced internalized stigma increased applications by nearly 40%, and yielded a 50% increase in applications from Black and African-American renters. This research offers some of the first evidence of the causal impact of stigma in a real-world setting and demonstrates that internalized stigma can be reduced even in the presence of pervasive societal stigma.

December 14, 2021


Poverty Retold: Using behavioral science to shift false narratives
w/ Anthony Barrows and Gustavo Galo, ideas42

Humans make sense of the world through narrative. But the stories we tell can often be false; full of misinformation and biases that reinforce harmful beliefs, attitudes, and stereotypes. Some of the most pervasive and false narratives are about poverty. These poverty narratives have existed for decades and are incredibly powerful. They are told time and time again in the media. They also shape public discourse on social policy, and at times, result in policies and programs that hurt, not help, those experiencing poverty.

We believe that to unlock the political will to promote more effective social policy and truly tackle inequality, we must first retell the narrative. But how will we know we’re successful? In this talk, teammates from ideas42’s Economic Justice focus area will discuss place-based projects aimed at shifting harmful and false narratives about poverty and accompanying research to unpack what drives beliefs around these narratives and how to measure narrative change. While these insights are relevant for those pursuing narrative change work, they may also be relevant to those in direct service and advocacy roles more broadly.

September 28, 2021


Why People Systematically Overlook Subtractive Changes
w/ Gabrielle Adams, Assistant Professor of Public Policy at the University of Virginia

Each day, people design. They make better customer experiences; improve products; and persuade people to get vaccinated. Professor Adams' research shows that when confronted with generic design problems, people default to thinking about what they might add and neglect to consider what they might remove. In this webinar, she discusses the implications of “subtraction neglect” for designers and problem-solvers. She also discusses its implications for behavioral scientists, who are already familiar with the ways in which removing barriers or adding incentives can facilitate behavior.

September 14, 2021


Increasing Degree Attainment Among Adult Students with Behavioral Science
w/ Professor Ben Castleman, University of Virginia, and Katherine Flaschen, ideas42

The benefits of earning a postsecondary degree or credential in the U.S. are clear -- college graduates are less likely to be underemployed and are more likely to have higher earnings than people without degrees. Unfortunately, only about half of Americans ages 25-64 hold a credential beyond high school. Further, 16% of working-age adults have earned some college credits, but do not hold a degree.

Join ideas42 and our academic affiliate from the Nudge4 Solutions Lab at the University of Virginia, Professor Ben Castleman, as we discuss the behavioral barriers to college (re)enrollment and completion that adult students face, as well as solutions that can help address these barriers.

July 13, 2021


Improving Student Engagement with Online Learning Programs in South Africa
w/ Carolina Better and Katherine Flaschen, ideas42

The share of government budget spent on education in South Africa is among the world's highest, at 19.5% in 2019. However, more than 3 in 4 South African 4th-graders can’t read for meaning. In order to ensure quality education for all, governments, philanthropies, and organizations working to progress education need innovative solutions to improve learning levels.

Online learning programs are a promising class of solution. To be truly impactful, however, online learning programs need to be designed in a way that takes students' real-world contexts, needs, and behaviors into account. Behavioral science is a promising yet underutilized approach to help students engage with these beneficial tools on a regular basis in order to improve their skills on core numeracy and literacy metrics. In this seminar, we will share our findings from working with two developers of online learning programs in South Africa to understand the behavioral barriers that students face when trying to use these programs and to design solutions that address these barriers in order to help students engage with these programs consistently.

June 8, 2021

Improving Officials’ Responsiveness to Constituents' Requests
w/ Laura Cojocaru, ideas42

Responding to constituents’ needs is a core duty for governments. However, bureaucrats do not always play this role as effectively as possible. Behavioral science insights can be employed to design simple, low-cost solutions to improve the effectiveness with which government officials perform their duties, without necessitating costly investments or reforms.

ideas42 partnered with civic-tech platform providers and Brazilian, Indian, and South African municipalities to improve the timeliness, accuracy, and equity of request resolution, and ultimately, residents’ satisfaction and trust in public institutions. In this webinar, we will share our findings regarding behavioral barriers, the designs currently being implemented, and other takeaways from our work to improve responsiveness to constituents' requests.

May 11, 2021

Remote Work, Time-Use and Happiness During COVID
w/ Ashley Whillans PhD, assistant professor at Harvard Business School

Working from home has become the “new normal” for employees around the world. How can we maximize the potential of virtual work? In this webinar, I will share insights from my research about how remote work has affected well-being, personal life, and work from a survey of remote workers from 44 states and 88 countries and interviews over 9 months with consultants from a top-tier management consulting firm. Together, these studies shed light on how we might be able to use behavioral science to improve virtual work.

April 13, 2021

Behavioral Science in Medicine: Improving Opioid Treatment
w/ Dr. Alister Martin, Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital

Opioid Use Disorder (OUD) has reached crisis levels across the United States in recent years. Massachusetts General Hospital and ideas42 have partnered to explore insights and approaches from behavioral science to optimize emergency department OUD treatment protocols and enable physicians to help more patients into effective, evidence-based treatment. In this seminar, Dr. Alister Martin will discuss findings from our research and interventions.

December 10, 2020

Program Delivery Innovation During COVID-19
w/ Allison Yates-Berg and Anthony Barrows, ideas42

The COVID-19 pandemic has created new challenges (and new opportunities for innovation) for public benefit programs across the United States. In this talk, teammates from ideas42's Economic Justice focus area will explore important insights to consider when developing and implementing a new innovative approach during the pandemic and beyond. While these insights are most relevant for program administrators, they are also useful for anyone innovating in human service delivery more broadly.

November 10, 2020

The Like-Minded Algorithm: Human-AI Integration & Considerations for Decision-Making
w/ Renée Richardson Gosline PhD, Senior Lecturer at the MIT Sloan School of Management and Principal Research Scientist at MIT's Initiative on The Digital Economy

Human decisions are increasingly mediated by technology, as we navigate input from artificially-intelligent recommendation systems and outsource cognitive load to algorithms. This talk will present a series of studies that explore the research question: when seeking advice, what factors affect people’s relative preferences for algorithmic versus human input? Recent research has identified two phenomena: algorithmic appreciation (a tendency toward algorithmic input) and algorithmic aversion (a tendency toward human input), focusing on aspects of the technology or the task to explain outcomes. Building upon this, our research explores an individual-level attribute, cognitive style, as measured by the Cognitive Reflection Test . Experiments in a variety of decision domains – financial, health, employment-- suggest that cognitive style (intuitive or deliberative), is a predictor of algorithmic appreciation or aversion. Implications for cognitive bias are discussed.

October 20, 2020

Trashing Misconceptions About Behavior: Reducing Waste in NYC Public Housing
w/ Matthew Darling, ideas42

The New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) is the largest manager of public housing in North America, and provides housing to 1 in 15 New Yorkers. Buildup of excess trash and other waste due to improper disposal is common across NYCHA developments, and creates frustration for residents and housing caretakers, as well as health and safety concerns. It also can also create negative (and false) perceptions about resident behavior and motivations.

To address resident concerns about improper waste disposal, the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice (MOCJ) sponsored a partnership with ideas42, NYCHA, and the Research and Evaluation Center at John Jay College. Through this collaboration, we identified barriers that made proper waste disposal challenging and designed solutions to address the barriers. In this seminar, we will share the barriers, designs, results, and key takeaways that others working in public housing may find useful, such as the importance of actively seeking out community input when designing solutions.

September 29, 2020

Building Effective, Resilient, and Trusted Police Organizations
w/ Rodrigo Canales, Associate Professor of Organizational Behavior at the Yale School of Management

Public perception of the reliability of the police has been systematically low. In particular, the persistence of some hotspots of crime and the high visibility of certain negative police events have amplified this poor public perception, despite the fact that, in general, crime and in particular violent crime has continuously decreased. In this research, we conduct a field experiment in Mexico to evaluate the efficacy and feasibility of improving the legitimacy of the police through training police officers and mid-level commanders on the concepts and techniques of procedural justice. To determine the mechanisms of (potential) impact, we designed evaluations not only on whether police officers understood the concepts of procedural justice after training, but also on whether they internalize it (i.e. it changes their professional identity) and most important on whether they actually change their behavior in the field. In this talk, I will also touch briefly on other components of the research I am conducting on issues of organizational design for police forces in Mexico.

September 14, 2020

Quick, Frictionless, Purposeful: Using Behavioral Science to Enhance and Learn From Cash Transfer Programs in the Era of COVID-19
w/ Jessica Jean-Francois, ideas42 and Laura Rawlings and Michele Zini, World Bank

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, countries across the globe have been adapting social assistance policies to support their citizens. Since March 2020, 139 countries and territories have planned, implemented, or adapted cash transfer programs. Now more than ever, it is crucial that programs are designed to derive optimal outcomes with the limited resources available. In this seminar, we will invite partners from the Social Protection and Jobs practice at the World Bank to set the stage on the importance of effective cash transfers in the era of COVID-19. We will then share how evidence from our work applying behavioral insights to social protection cash transfers can be applied in the COVID and post-COVID eras to assist these programs in achieving maximum impact.

June 25, 2020

Rapid Behavioral Trials to Improve HIV Testing in South Africa: Two Case Studies in Intervention Design
w/ Alison Buttenheim PhD MBA, University of Pennsylvania CHIBE

Rapid trials of behaviorally-informed interventions are a potentially powerful way to optimize service delivery programs of all kinds. One challenge (among many) in running rapid trials is the design of behaviorally-informed interventions. Where do those intervention design ideas come from? Where should they come from? In this talk I will walk through intervention design case studies from two recent trials in South Africa, both intended to improve aspects of HIV testing programs. While many robust intervention design frameworks and approaches exist, the reality for many projects often deviates from an established process. How? Why? And what are the implications for the conclusions and inferences we can draw from trial results?

June 18, 2020

Design Principles for Clearing the Pathway to College
w/ Harrison Neuert and Shera Kenney, ideas42

Community colleges offer economic opportunity to millions of Americans. While community colleges are often affordable and accessible, behavioral challenges in the application and matriculation process (common among all colleges and universities) can still prohibit many prospective students from getting to day one. In this seminar, we will share behavioral insights and designs to help students successfully navigate the pathway to college from our year of work with the largest system of higher education in the US: the California Community Colleges.

May 19, 2020

Getting New Voters and Non-Voters to the Polls
w/ Omar Parbhoo, ideas42

Can our democracy function during the COVID-19 crisis? The ideas42 Nonvoter Innovation Lab is responding to the pandemic by designing behaviorally-informed solutions that protect safe and accessible elections. During this seminar, we'll share our latest innovations and discuss how we're coordinating with election officials, technology platforms, and nonprofits to implement flexible voting systems that meet the challenges of the moment.

March 17, 2020

Act to Adapt: Behavioral Design for Climate Adaptation
w/ Erin Sherman, ideas42

From heat to hurricanes, floods to fires, climate change cuts across all aspects of life on Earth. While we must continue reducing greenhouse gas emissions (known as climate mitigation), we also have to adjust our structures, systems, and societies in response to the impacts of climate change that are already occurring (known as climate adaptation). In this seminar, we'll explore how behavioral science can be used to accelerate adaptation efforts, and we'll go "beyond the nudge" to discuss decisions that are structural, contextual, occasional, political, and expert-driven.

February 20, 2020

Behavioral Design to Encourage Habit Formation in Handwashing in Peru
w/ Nicki Cohen, ideas42

Imagine a world in which there was a pill that could prevent a million diarrhea-related deaths every year and reduce total incidence of diarrhea by half. Well, we live in that very world, where the "pill" is actually a seemingly simple action: handwashing with soap. And yet - the vast majority of people do not properly wash their hands at critical moments, and researchers have by and large failed to induce folks to do so. In this seminar, we'll talk about how we applied the insights from behavioral science and leveraged disgust, comedy, and essential oils to build a new handwashing habit among caregivers of young children in a small rural village in the Peruvian Andes.

January 16, 2020

Behavioral Science and Machine Learning: A Primer
w/ Rachel Rosenberg, ideas42

Curious about how to use machine learning in your research? Concerned about the ethics of algorithm-based decisions? Our machine learning team introduces the concept of machine learning and how we, as behavioral scientists, are using it for social good.