We are all guilty of it at times. But in Santos’ defence, it was a PR stunt agreed between his club, Atletico Paranaense and Uber, as part of a campaign to highlight the dangers of driving whilst using a mobile. This is called Nudge Theory in Behavioural Economics; the idea is that indirect suggestions or positive reinforcements can influence people’s choices, crucially without any forced compliance; in other words, manipulating someone to make a particular choice out of free will.
Santos told reporters at the time: "What I did on the pitch is the same as what thousands of people do every day in their cars. The only difference is that being involved in a traffic accident it much more dangerous than letting in a goal."
Another example of nudge theory that influenced behaviour was at Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport; an economist suggested etching a picture of a fly into the middle of each urinal as a way to encourage men to ‘aim for bullseye’ when going to the loo. As a result, there was much less spillage around the urinals, which reportedly led to an 80% reduction in cleaning bills.
Meanwhile in Stockholm, the stairs at a metro station were turned into a “piano” (standing on each step would produce a piano-like sound), resulting in a 66% increase in the number of people using them instead of the escalator – a creative and fun way to encourage more exercise. After the video of it went viral, other cities (including Milan, Istanbul and Melbourne) adopted this form of ‘nudging’.