One common mistake in our understanding of “how the world works” is to think that lack of action is due to a lack of information. If people just knew how important X was they would definitely do it.
One form is seen in the social media question: What would you add to the high school curriculum? Answers tend to hover around statistics instead of calculus, personal finance, or decision making.
Those are well intentioned suggestions, and on net, students would be better off if we could download a stats module in place of the first derivative. But information is not action.
Geez. We’ve looked at hand washing (twice!) and there’s probably a well designed study that notes signs like that, in bathrooms such as this, change a proxy for health in some-such-way.
But, there’s a better example. It’s a real life example. It’s been tested on thousands. It’s also in Orlando. Arrange hand sanitizers to be avoided. To hijack Ryan Holiday: the obstacle is the way. But after two days people watching in the theme parks it’s very clear, this works.
And the reason for signs showing the way and not sanitizer stations in the way is incentives.
Back to Twitter. Some schools offer personal finance. From Kris’s nephew.
“I have this assignment for school where I have to invest $1,000 into a company’s stock. And I know you’re a stocks person so I was wondering if you know a good company i should invest in. Because the winner gets a prize of who makes the most money.”
Just give every twelfth grader $200. But there’s no action in that. There’s no standards or benchmarks or assessments about net learning in the second quarter of the school year. So in a way, Kris’s nephew is getting exactly what the system incentivized.
This is the system. In education it’s hard to measure “financial literacy”. In public health it’s hard to measure “healthy place”. In these systems optics are rewarded. Theme parks are in the optics business too, but for them results like: Person Gets Sick at World Famous Theme Park matter more. It’s important to know the rules if we want to play the game.
In finance there’s paper returns and there’s “moolah in the coola”, that’s another analogy. Paper returns are optics. Money in the pocket is an outcome.