Comparing "Demonstration plots" to the UK's Nudge Unit work with taxes and neighbors?
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While I am at it I thought I would ask about the efficacy of "Demonstration plots". I have never thought of them as particularly successful, or at least the ones I have seen. Part of this may be the lack of considering that these plots are subsidized initiatives that assume people will copy them/their neighbors, without a subsidy.
What got me wondering about this was work that the UK's "Nudge Unit" (Behavioural Insights Team) has done with taxes, from the NY Times (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/12/08/business/international/britains-ministry-of-nudges.html):
"One of the biggest successes of the nudge unit involves tax payment. Inspired in part by a field experiment in Minnesota, Mr. Halpern’s team has helped test different reminder letters on hundreds of thousands of people who haven’t paid their tax bills. One nudge was a sentence telling recipients that a majority of people in their community had already paid their taxes. Another said that most people who owe a similar amount of tax had paid.
Both messages bolstered tax collection, and combining them had an even stronger effect. Over the last financial year, the letters brought forward £210 million of revenue, Britain’s revenue and customs department says — money that otherwise would have had to be chased in costly court procedures and failed to earn interest for the government."
To me, the reasoning that the nudge unit uses sounds very similar to part of the reasoning behind demonstration plots, that is, people see their neighbors succeeding so they will do it too. Keeping up with the Jones as I think the Americans say.
Problem is, according to the nudge unit this works, but according to my admittedly anecdotal observations demonstrations in development don't seem to be particularly effective? Thoughts?