Short of Electroshock, “Anti-Charity” Concept Sounds Most Motivating

January 6, 2009 at 1:11 pm 5 comments

I’m currently reading the enlightening and exciting “Nudge” by Richard H. Thaler and Cass R. Sunstein.

Since reading “Predictably Irrationallast year, I’ve become increasingly interested in Behavioral Economics which is:

(Definition that makes my reading sound smart:

“the combination of psychology and economics that investigates what happens in markets in which some of the agents display human limitations and complications”


“A field of economics that studies how the actual decision-making process influences the decisions that are reached.”

At one point, in “Nudge”, the concept of incentives/motivators is discussed – citing an example of one of the author’s (Thaler) colleagues who is delaying writing his thesis.  While this procrastination is having an impact on the colleague’s finances and career it isn’t enough to motivate him, so the author gets him to write a series of post-dated monthly cheques that will be cashed if each chapter of the thesis is not delivered to him by “midnight of the corresponding month”.  This works.

“Nudge” then mentions a site which does something similar (created by two other economists) – encourages you to


Well, it’s a little less deadly than it sounds. On Stickk, you create a goal and then you assign your (potential) failure with a “price” (for instance for each pound you don’t lose, you will be donating $10 to your favorite charity). But here’s the ultimate motivator and the one that got me eerily excited: the site also enables you to select an “anti-charity” to assign your contribution to.  And what’s an anti-charity, you ask? It’s a charity whose values are so contrary to your own that it will pain you to be giving your money to them(!). Freakin’ brilliant! Now, there’s a motivator.

So, I’ve read & enjoyed: Freakomonics, Paradox of Choice, Made to Stick, The Design of Everyday Things and have a few others planned to read. Can you recommend any similar books (anything psychology/sociology/behavioral economics)?  I’d love suggestions.


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5 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Jen  |  January 6, 2009 at 1:40 pm

    Quirkology (I forget the author) is a fun romp through behavioural science.

    I also really liked Daniel Goleman’s ‘Emotional Intelligence” and he published a follow-up (that I have yet to read) called “Social Intelligence” about how we connect to each other.

  • 2. Daniel  |  January 7, 2009 at 9:34 am

    Interesting idea for a website (stickk) but I agree that would work on me. The “anti-charity” concept was put to similar use with a fantastic(al) alarm clock I saw last year. Every time you hit the snooze button the alarm clock donates $10 to a predetermined anti-charity.

    The snuz-n-luz alarm clock.

  • 3. Scott  |  January 8, 2009 at 7:09 pm

    If you like The Design of Everyday Things, wonder if you read his other book Emotional Design. It’s his analysis on the emotional side of the design of products rather than focusing on usability.

    Just ordered Why We Buy online. It’s a bit dated but the author had recently published a revised version, so for me it’s a good time to catch up.

    I started using Stickk about 2 months ago, and it helps me even without money stake.

  • 4. monicahamburg  |  January 8, 2009 at 7:25 pm

    @Jen – Good suggestions! “Emotional Intelligence” was on my “to read” list but I had never heard of “Quirkology”. Added!

    @Daniel -Thanks for telling me about that clock – How cool! Yeah, that would get me out of bed, quick.

    @Scott – I have not yet read Emotional Design – hadn’t heard to that before either. Duly added. So Stickk helps even without the money attached. Good to know. Now, why do you think it does – does making the commitment on the site hold you more accountable – feel like a contract…?

  • 5. Scott  |  January 9, 2009 at 7:11 pm

    I think it serves as a great reminder. I report my own progress, so every week Stickk send me an email asking if I’ve completed my weekly goal. It just sucks to fail yourself. For the past few weeks I didn’t reach my writing goal, but I pick it up again this week because I’m sick of submitting failure reports. Without it I might just forget about it and wait until next new year. Of course adding money into the equation will motivate me even more. However I do think the stake for anti-charity should be small, otherwise I might just lie to get away with it if I can’t keep up.


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