Monthly Archives: October 2015

Gun violence? Insurmountable challenge. ISIS? No problem!

Donald Trump has said that he “would knock the hell out of” ISIS.

But on gun violence in America, he is strikingly passive:

You know, no matter what you do, guns, no guns, it doesn’t matter. You have people that are mentally ill. And they’re gonna come through the cracks.

So regarding 11,000 firearm-related homicides ever year in the United States (allegedly because of mental illness), “[n]o matter what you do, you will have problems and that’s the way the world goes,” but when it comes to tens of thousands of crazy terrorists some six thousand miles away that keep women as sex slaves and behead prisoners that is no problem because “there is a method of defeating them quickly and effectively and having total victory.”

Simon Hedlin

Feel guilty: You’ll help society

Today I write in The Boston Globe about guilt, which can really be a force for good. An excerpt:

“SO IF WE are going to be kind,” wrote the South African author J. M. Coetzee, “let it be out of simple generosity, not because we feel guilty.” The notion that we should give our time and resources to others because we enjoy being benevolent is a compelling ethos. But research shows that it is not that simple: Oftentimes when we feel bad about ourselves, we are, in fact, more likely to do good things.

Feelings of guilt, in particular, can prompt us to take action for the benefit of others. The reason for this is straightforward: Nobody likes regret or remorse, so we act in a way that we feel less guilty. Consider, for instance, one study that found that participants were more likely to want to reduce water consumption by reusing towels when staying in a hotel if they felt guilty about frequently changing their towels.

Cass Sunstein and I found a similar result — that guilt is a powerful motivator — in a recent experimental study at Harvard Law School. We surveyed some 1,200 Americans and asked them whether they would be interested in enrolling in a green energy program if their state government offered them the opportunity to join one. The respondents who said that they would feel guilty if they did not enroll had a higher likelihood of being interested in signing up.

In other words, when people regret making a choice that they think ultimately may harm others — such as changing towels or consuming less environmentally friendly energy — they can be spurred to do the right thing. And that can have serious implications for policy makers.

Read the full article here.

Simon Hedlin

Cash for clinics: When economic incentives may backfire

In a piece for the Behavioral Science & Policy Association, I write about new research that shows that economic incentives for hospitals in some cases may backfire. An excerpt:

As an example, the researchers point to the Hospital Value-Based Purchasing Program of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS). The program makes Medicare payments to hospitals conditional on how well the institutions perform on quality measures, health outcomes, and patient experience. Manary and colleagues suspect that because this incentive-based system singles out winners and losers, the hospitals that do poorly by the metrics and thus receive less funding may end up performing even worse as their financial health deteriorates. So well-intentioned—and to some extent well-founded—as monetary rewards for good behavior may be, they could ultimately backfire if the context is unfitting.

Read the full text here.

Simon Hedlin