My ever-charming wife is currently in Tasmania “doing zoology like a boss” to help understand the impacts on behavior of the facial tumor disease that has decimated the Tasmanian Devil population over the last 15 years or so.

Amanda traps the devils, tags them, and ensures that a bunch of very relevant tests are performed. Just as importantly, she also helps name each of the devils trapped after a prominent “gay” actor: Portia, Rupert, Tom, etc.

In the week she has been away so far she has trapped the allegedly bi-sexual Warren twice. The first time he seemed quite afraid when they released him – uncertain of what might happen.

Interestingly, the second time they trapped him he wasn't scared at all when he was released. He seemed to know he was safe. He looked around a bit and just sort-of wandered off.

This is “pricing it”. It's the process of gaining clarity of the costs and risks. Once something is priced decisions can be made. The increased clarity of the price doesn't always mean incidents of it will go down – it doesn't always create a disincentive – it just creates a price.

The price for Warren eating the free lamb that the traps are deliciously bated with is that he has to spend a day or so in a plastic tube and get a couple of harmless tests done.

As the price is now known it can be used in decision-making. As the price is low, it will be paid more often. The reasonably priced lamb will be consumed more often than unexpected lamb, that looks suspiciously like a trap, with an unknown price.

This is of course just like the famous after-school child care example. In this case the child-care facility decided to charge people for being late to collect their children. This was because they got sick of waiting for late parents.

The only problem was that after they put a price on the late collection of their children the number of late pick-ups actually increased! Because they had priced the after hours care people could decide to use it with no guilt.

The second problem was that the when they stopped the trial and changed back to a zero-penalty policy for late pick up, the number of late pick-ups increased yet again! The parents treated the “new” no-fee policy like after-school care was now on sale! 100% off after hours child care!

(see original paper here:

So, do you want to “price it”? Really?