Behavioural Economics: A Standing Ovation

On Wednesday I listened to one of the best teacher training talks I have heard in over twenty years and five minutes before the end I was contemplating standing up to applaud when it was over ..........

 As the speaker concluded, a colleague I know well and admire stood up and applauded .... I clapped too but from the comfort of my seat - why?

Perhaps a lack of self confidence? Possibly two people on their feet did not provide sufficient safety in numbers - even though the talk was about taking your teaching out of the comfort zone! Would others have joined in? Why did I not have the courage of my convictions?


I was reminded of this tonight when preparing some new materials for a behavioural economics course at school - a good group of students have signed up for a twelve week course on many different aspects of this intriguing and fast-growing part of the subject. I will post many of the resources onto the blog and I am hoping that each week students will be researching and blogging about their discussions and reading.

Choosing whether or not to stand up to applaud ought to be a simple decision but in truth it is a complex one. All of us live in multiple real social networks, we see and hear what others are doing, much behaviour is driven by a herd instinct. There was a marvellous example of this a few days ago when Jonnie Peacock won the 100m final at the London Paralympics. Remember how the whole crowd roared his name just before they went to their marks? And then the silence ahead of the starting gun.

I am normally the last person to stop applauding when I like something and I love to hear and feel the rhythms of applause at sporting events, concerts, farewells for colleagues and in public meetings. Next time I will be the first to stand up!

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