Michael I. Norton

28 Results

 

How Government Can Restore the Faith of Citizens

Would we like government more if we could see what it was doing to help citizens? Research by Michael Norton and Ryan Buell. Open for comment; 11 Comments posted.

Surfacing the Submerged State with Operational Transparency in Government Services

Research shows that Americans' trust in government is near historic lows and frustration with government performance is approaching record highs. While debates rage about how effective government is in providing basic services, one explanation for these trends in public opinion is that, independent of effectiveness, many voters may simply be unaware that government provides any services at all. Previous research by the authors reveals that seeing the labor in which firms engage improves customer satisfaction. In this paper, the authors design and test an intervention targeted toward increasing citizens' awareness of the services provided by government. Specifically, they present the results of an experiment in which Boston-area residents interacted with a website that visualized the service requests submitted by members of the public and the City's efforts to address those requests. Does seeing the work of government—fixing potholes, repairing streetlamps, removing graffiti, collecting garbage—lead citizens to express more positive attitudes toward government and increase their support for maintaining and expanding the scale of government programs? The study shows that providing greater operational transparency into government's efforts to address citizens' needs can improve attitudes toward government. Read More

To Buy Happiness, Spend Money on Other People

In a new video, Michael Norton shows that spending money on others yields more happiness than spending it on yourself. Closed for comment; 3 Comments posted.

Studying How Income Inequality Shapes Behavior

Professor David A. Moss is studying how growing income disparity affects our decision-making on everything from risk-taking to voting. Open for comment; 2 Comments posted.

To Buy Happiness, Purchase an Experience

Michael Norton explains why spending money on new experiences yields more happiness than spending it on new products. Closed for comment; 16 Comments posted.

Prosocial Bonuses Increase Employee Satisfaction and Team Performance

Designing effective incentive schemes is a central challenge for a wide range of organizations, from multinational corporations to academic departments. In pursuit of identifying the most effective strategies, organizations have devised an impressive variety of such bonuses, from fixed salaries to pay-per-performance, from commissions to end-of-year bonuses. In this paper, the authors suggest that the wide variety in such schemes masks a shared assumption: That the best way to motivate employees is to reward them with money that they then spend on themselves. The authors—Lalin Anik, Lara B. Aknin, Michael I. Norton, Elizabeth W. Dunn, and Jordi Quoidbach—propose an alternative means of incentivizing employees—what they term "prosocial bonuses"—in which organizations provide employees with bonuses used to engage in positive actions towards charities and coworkers, from donating money to remote countries to taking a coworker to lunch. The authors examine the impact of these prosocial bonuses on employee satisfaction and team performance, by reporting results from field experiments in settings ranging from bank employees in Australia to pharmaceutical sales representatives in Belgium to dodgeball teams in Canada. Overall, results suggest that a minor adjustment to employee bonuses—shifting the focus from the self to others—can produce measurable benefits for employees and organizations. Read More

The Power of Rituals in Life, Death, and Business

Experimental research by Michael I. Norton, Francesca Gino, and colleagues proves multiple benefits of using rituals. Not only do they have the power to alleviate grief, but they also serve to enhance the experience of consuming food—even something as mundane as a carrot. Closed for comment; 21 Comments posted.

Non-Standard Matches and Charitable Giving

In this article, Michael Sanders, Sarah Smith, and Michael I. Norton review evidence suggesting that matching schemes—an increasingly common strategy used by nonprofits and firms to increase giving in which organizations match employee donations to charity—may not always prove effective. The authors offer several novel matching schemes designed to improve the effectiveness of matching, some focused on individual donors in isolation and some focused on donors embedded in organizations. The authors' hope is to spur further research assessing the efficacy of these schemes, reducing the tendency for matching schemes to crowd out donations and making them more likely to increase charitable behavior. Read More

From McRibs to Maseratis: The Power of Scarcity Marketing

In the new book Happy Money: the Science of Smarter Spending, behavioral economists Elizabeth Dunn and Michael Norton describe how money can buy happiness—but only if we spend it the right way. Closed for comment; 2 Comments posted.

How Elastic Are Preferences for Redistribution? Evidence from Randomized Survey Experiments

The United States has witnessed a large increase in income concentration over the past several decades. While standard theory predicts that support for redistribution should increase with income inequality, there has been little evidence of greater demand for redistribution despite historic increases in income concentration. A possible explanation is that people are unaware of the increase in inequality, and greater information would substantially move redistributive preferences. The authors examine the determinants of redistributive preferences through randomized online survey experiments with Amazon Mechanical Turk, a rapidly growing new laboratory to carry out social experiments. The results show that information changes people's beliefs about the current level of inequality and leads them to become more favorable to redistributive policies like the estate tax. Read More

5 Weight Loss Tips From Behavioral Economists

Business scholars, particularly behavioral economists, study what motivates people to buy, save, donate, and any other number of actions that build society. In helping organizations run better, this research can also be read in a different light. Diet tips, anyone? Closed for comment; 2 Comments posted.

Sharpening Your Skills: Understanding Customers

In these previous articles, professors discuss a range of topics about customers: why they are not always right; understanding their motivations; providing them dramatically enhanced services; and making things right when you don't meet their expectations. Open for comment; 1 Comment posted.

Children Develop a Veil of Fairness

Is children's fair behavior motivated by a desire to be fair —or merely the desire to appear fair? The results of several experiments suggest that as children grow older they become increasingly concerned with appearing fair to others, which may explain some of their increased tendency to behave fairly. Since even young children can radically shift their behavior from fair to unfair based on whether authority figures are aware of their behavior, it might be naive to believe that shrewd adults will be fair without similar oversight. By understanding the limitations of fairness, policymakers can discover how to leverage fairness to increase socially desirable behavior in some circumstances, while limiting its occasional wastefulness. Read More

The Case Against Racial Colorblindness

Research by Harvard Business School's Michael I. Norton and colleagues shows that attempting to overcome prejudice by ignoring race is an ineffective strategy that—in many cases—only serves to perpetuate bias. Closed for comment; 23 Comments posted.

It’s Alive! Business Scholars Turn to Experimental Research

Business researchers are turning increasingly to experiments in the lab and field to unlock the secrets of what motivates CEOs, consumers, and policymakers. Closed for comment; 5 Comments posted.

The ‘IKEA Effect’: When Labor Leads to Love

Companies increasingly involve customers in the design and assembly of products, from Converse allowing customers to design their own shoes to IKEA asking customers to assemble their own furniture. In this paper researchers Michael I. Norton (Harvard Business School), Daniel Mochon (University of California at San Diego), and Dan Ariely (Duke) use the "IKEA Effect" to explain the increase in valuation we place on products we build ourselves. The researchers discuss the implications of the IKEA Effect for marketing managers and organizations more generally. Read More

Are We Thinking Too Little, or Too Much?

In the course of making a decision, managers often err in one of two directions—either overanalyzing a situation or forgoing all the relevant information and simply going with their gut. HBS marketing professor Michael I. Norton discusses the potential pitfalls of thinking too much or thinking too little. Open for comment; 44 Comments posted.

The Most Important Management Trends of the (Still Young) Twenty-First Century

HBS Dean Nitin Nohria and faculty look backward and forward at the most important business trends of the young twenty-first century. Read More

Prosocial Spending and Well-Being: Cross-Cultural Evidence for a Psychological Universal

Can money buy happiness? Apparently it can--if that money is spent on someone else. New research shows that people around the world gain emotional benefits from using their financial resources to benefit others. The research, which included data from 136 countries, was conducted by Lara B. Aknin, Elizabeth W. Dunn, Christopher P. Barrington-Leigh, and John Helliwell, University of British Columbia; Robert Biswas-Diener, Centre of Applied Positive Psychology; Imelda Kemeza, Mbarara University of Science & Technology; Paul Nyende, Makerere University; Claire Ashton-James, University of Groningen; and Michael I. Norton, Harvard Business School. Read More

Customer Feedback Not on elBulli’s Menu

The world is beating a path to Chef Ferran Adriŗ's door at elBulli, but why? In professor Michael Norton's course, students learn about marketing from a business owner who says he doesn't care whether or not customers like his product. Read More

“I read Playboy for the articles”: Justifying and Rationalizing Questionable Preferences

We want others to find us good, fair, responsible and logical; and we place even more importance on thinking of ourselves this way. Therefore, when people behave in ways that might appear selfish, prejudiced, or perverted, they tend to engage a host of strategies designed to justify questionable behavior with rational excuses: "I hired my son because he's more qualified." "I promoted Ashley because she does a better job than Aisha." Or, "I read Playboy for the articles." In this chapter from a forthcoming book, HBS doctoral student ZoŽ Chance and professor Michael I. Norton describe various means of coping with one's own questionable behavior: through preemptive actions and concurrent strategies for re-framing uncomfortable situations, forgoing decisions, and forgetting those decisions altogether. Read More

Feeling Good about Giving: The Benefits (and Costs) of Self-Interested Charitable Behavior

Helping others takes countless forms and springs from countless motivations, from deep-rooted empathy to a more calculated desire for public recognition. Social scientists have identified a host of ways in which charitable behavior can lead to benefits for the giver, whether economically via tax breaks, socially via signaling one's wealth or status, or psychologically via experiencing well-being from helping. Charitable organizations have traditionally capitalized on all of these motivations for giving, with a recently emerging focus on highlighting the mood benefits of giving—the feelings of empowerment, joy, and inspiration that giving engenders. Indeed, if giving feels good, why not advertise the benefits of "self-interested giving," allowing people to experience that good feeling while increasing contributions to charity at the same time? HBS doctoral candidate Lalin Anik, Professor Michael I. Norton, and coauthors explore whether organizations that seek to increase charitable giving by advertising the benefits of giving are making claims supported by empirical research and, most importantly, whether such claims actually increase donations. Read More

Decoding the Artful Sidestep

Do you notice when someone changes the subject after you ask them a question? If you don't always notice or even mind such conversational transformations, you're not alone. New research by Todd Rogers and Harvard Business School professor Michael I. Norton explores the common occurrence of "conversational blindness." Q&A with Rogers. Read More

The Artful Dodger: Answering the Wrong Question the Right Way

Individuals frequently attempt to avoid questions they do not want to answer, from politicians dodging reporters' requests to clarify their position on when life begins, to employees sidestepping their bosses' questions as to why they are late for the third straight day. Rogers, a recent PhD grad from HBS, and Norton, an assistant professor in the Marketing unit, suggest that when faced with unwanted queries, question-dodgers sometimes exploit conversational blindness—a phenomenon whereby listeners fail to notice when speakers respond to a different question than the one they are asked—by responding with answers that seem to address the question asked, but which in fact address an entirely different question. In the context of political debates, two studies demonstrate conversational blindness, exploring both the conditions that impact the likelihood of such dodges going unnoticed, and how speakers' successful—and failed—attempts to capitalize on conversational blindness impact listeners' opinions of them. Read More

Spending on Happiness

Money can't buy you love but it can buy happiness—as long as it's money for someone else. New research by HBS professor Michael I. Norton and colleagues Elizabeth W. Dunn and Lara B. Aknin, described in the journal Science, looks into how and why spending money on others promotes happiness. Norton explains more in this Q&A. Read More

The “Fees → Savings” Link, or Purchasing Fifty Pounds of Pasta

Discount membership clubs have a large and growing presence in retail—one recent survey reported that Costco sells to 1 in every 11 people in the United States and Canada, and warehouse clubs are estimated to be a $120 billion industry today in the United States alone. As a result, many people have had the experience of entering one of these popular clubs and leaving hours later with more goods than can fit in their car. One rational reason for such behavior is that membership clubs do offer lower prices than other retailers. However, Norton and Lee offer a counterintuitive explanation for such buying behavior. They propose that the presence of membership fees alone—independent of the actual savings on any given product—can lead consumers to infer a "fees → savings" link, leading them to spend more than they otherwise would to capitalize on these perceived "great deals." Norton and Lee explore this phenomenon by setting up their own "membership clubs" and comparing profits across stores with varying membership fees. Read More

The Persuasive Appeal of Stigma

Are minority groups more persuasive when their conversations with majority groups are conducted face-to-face? Interracial interactions are among the most perilous social occasions in contemporary America, full of opportunities for things to go awry. People in stigmatized groups, for instance, may worry that members of majority groups hold prejudiced attitudes that can lead to discriminatory or offensive behavior. Members of majority groups, for their part, may fear coming across as biased or racist. While psychology has traditionally explored the damaging effects of such interactions on social exchange, new findings contribute to the growing recognition that stigma may be a two-sided construct, marked with a host of costs but occasional benefits. This study demonstrates the persuasive power of stigmatized individuals and shows how self-presentational concerns may change attitudes. Read More

Online Match-Making with Virtual Dates

Users of online dating sites often struggle to find love because the sites themselves make it more difficult than it needs to be. To the rescue: Virtual Dates, an online ice-breaker from Jeana Frost of Boston University, Michael Norton of HBS, and Dan Ariely of MIT. Read More