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Solutions Catalog

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The SPARQ Solutions Catalog is an online library of scientifically tested fixes to a wide variety of social issues and conflicts.

Easily searchable and practitioner-focused, it provides a curated set of evidence-based behavioral nudges in education, health, law & justice, peace & conflict, relationships, parenting, and the environment.

Civil Society Conflict Resolution Criminal Justice Economic Development Education Environment  Health Parenting Relationships Bias


Problem: People from different social groups tend to fear and mistrust one another.

Solution: Teaming up as equals and collaborating towards a common goal reduces prejudice between people with different backgrounds.

woman selecting veneers

Problem: Stereotypically "geeky" spaces discourage women from pursuing science, technology, engineering, and math.

Solution: A few changes in room decorations can help women feel like they belong in STEM.


Problem: Low-income students and students of color often earn worse grades than do wealthier and White students.

Solution: Plotting a path from who you are now to who you want to be in the future helps students identify with school and earn better grades.

Problem: Negative emotions feed intolerance, which can harm relations between groups.

Solution: Taking a detached perspective dampens bad feelings and increases tolerance for the other side.

mixed vegetables

Problem: People think "healthy" foods are depriving and bland, and so avoid them.

Solution: Describing healthy food with indulgent and fun language leads people to eat more of it.

This Quick Writing Task Lifts Women's Science Grades

Women taking notes in a classroom

Problem: The stereotype that women are bad at science leads many of them to underperform in their courses.

Solution: A short writing task about treasured personal values deflects harmful stereotypes and helps women reach their full potential.

Several 100 Rupee bills laid on a table

Problem: Many sex workers in India enter the profession to avoid poverty but then are shunned from society and can’t access financial resources. 

Solution: Improving how sex workers think of their profession helps them plan for the future and save more.

Mixed-race women's volleyball team

Problem: People from different cultural groups often dislike and discriminate against one another.

Solution: When people from different social groups think of each other as belonging to one larger group, they like each other more.

Two people in suits riding up escalator

Problem: People sometimes lie to get ahead.

Solution: Adding moral quotes to e-mail signatures primes recipients to act more honestly.

Tip jar at a bar

Problem: Employees in the service industry often feel emotionally drained.

Solution: Emotional management techniques and diary-writing improve employee performance on the job and lead to better tips from customers.

Teacher sitting in front of classroom full of students

Problem: School suspensions set students up to enter the school-to-prison pipeline, leading to unemployment and incarceration later in life (Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology).

Solution: Taking an empathetic, rather than punitive, approach to classroom discipline reduces suspensions and improves student-teacher relationships. 

Man laying on the ground in need of help

Problem: People often turn a blind eye to others in need. 

Solution: Reduce time pressure to get people to help. 

Civil Society

Eyes peering over a Harry Potter book

Problem: People develop prejudice at a young age.

Solution: Reading about fictional characters who show empathy for marginalized groups helps children become more empathetic in real life. 

Civil Society, Conflict Resolution, Education


Keep an Eye on Bad Behavior

Person's hand grabbing a cookie

Problem: People misbehave when no one is looking. 

Solution: People behave better when they feel they’re being watched. 

Problem: Although Black men make up only 6% of the U.S. population, they are the victims of 40% of unarmed fatal police shootings. 

Solution: Training people not to rely on Black stereotypes can save lives.

Immigrants protest and march

Problem: In the last four decades, the worldwide immigrant population has more than doubled. Many native-borns view their new neighbors as outsiders, and so do not help them, which can lead immigrants to feel "culturally homeless."

Solution: Showing native-borns how they are similar to immigrants inspires the former to offer aid to the latter.

Cartoon of a racially diverse jury

Problem: Racial disparities in the justice system disproportionately affect Black people.

Solution: Juries make better decisions when they’re racially diverse.

Problem: People stress out about stress. 

Solution: Thinking about the benefits of stress can improve your response to stress.

Problem: Many people fail to reach their goals.

Solution: To turn your ambitions into reality, make concrete and specific plans.

Problem: Diarrhea is the second leading cause of children’s death worldwide, according to the World Health Organization.

Solution: Changing people’s feelings about washing their hands with soap improves hygiene, which in turn reduces diarrhea.

A hand holding a cigarette

Problem: Smoking is the leading cause of preventable death in the Western world, and yet 25% of American teenagers have taken up tobacco.

Solution: Developing specific ways to refuse cigarettes helps teens resist the peer pressure to smoke.

Problem: The leading causes of death for adolescents in the United States are alcohol use and alcohol-related events.

Solution: Showing students that many of their peers are uncomfortable with alcohol reduces drinking.

Problem: Using too much energy hurts the environment.

Solution: Including smiley and frowny face emoticons in people’s energy bills can lead entire neighborhoods to use less energy.

'Opt Out' Policies Increase Organ Donation

An organ donor

Problem: According to the American Transplant Foundation, 18 people die every day in the United States for want of an organ transplant, and some 122,344 people are waiting for a donated organ.

Solution: Changing U.S. policies so that people’s organs are automatically donated when they die—rather than requiring people to “opt in” to donating their organs while they are still alive—may lead to more organ donations and more lives saved.

Problem: Rejection by peers leads teens to act aggressively and feel down.

Solution: Teaching teens that everyone has the capacity to change decreases aggression and symptoms of depression following peer exclusion. If people can change, so too can social labels like “bully” and “loser".

Conflict Resolution, Criminal Justice, Education

Problem: People’s desire to see themselves in the best light prevents them from accurately perceiving risks to their health.

Solution: Reassuring people that they are good helps them accept negative information about their health.

Doctor shaking hands with patient

Problem: Colonoscopies can prevent colon cancer, yet the painfulness of the procedure deters patients from screening.

Solution: Prolonging the painless final moments of a colonoscopy leads patients to recall the entire procedure as less painful, which in turn increases their willingness to undergo more screenings in the future.

banana split

Problem: Obesity causes 300,000 deaths per year in the United States, according to the National Institutes of Health.

Solution: When people use smaller dinnerware (plates, bowls, cutlery, etc.), they eat less.

Girl balancing a book on her head

Problem: Students who are the first in their families to attend college struggle to keep up with their classmates from college-going families.

Solution: Acknowledging first-generation college students’ unique needs and empowering them to take advantage of university resources helps them adjust to college and earn better grades.

Vegetable cartoon characters smiling and waving

Problem: More than one-third of American kids are overweight or obese, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.  Junk food drives part of this obesity epidemic.

Solution: Storybooks that teach kids why they need different nutrients lead them to choose healthier snacks.


Problem: More than 1 in 3 Americans have a sexually transmitted infection (STI), according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Solution: Pointing out people’s hypocrisy causes them to practice safer sex.

Problem: It's hard to change people's behavior.

Solution: Changing the behaviors of an entire group of people can be easier than changing just one person at a time.

Problem: College students often earn mediocre grades.

Solution: Helping college students understand that intelligence is a skill they can develop over time, rather than a talent they were born with, causes their GPAs to rise.

Seeing Diversity Lessens Discrimination

A poster of people's faces with the caption: "What makes us the that we are all different."

Problem: Prejudice and discrimination make life hard for many people around the world.

Solution: Showing that other groups are made up of diverse individuals reduces prejudice and discrimination.

Dried and cracked soil

Problem: Even during droughts, many Americans guzzle water. In dry California, for example, some cities use more than four times as many gallons of water than do their neighbors. 

Solution: Discovering they are hypocrites prompts people to turn off the tap.

"Nice job A' written on bottom of student's paper

Problem: African-American students tend to receive lower grades, partly because they distrust school and their teachers.

Solution: When teachers tell African-American students, “I have high standards, and I know you can meet them,” they build their students’ trust and help them excel.

Scan of a brain

Problem: In math and science, women and girls trail behind their male peers. 

Solution: Teaching girls that intelligence is a skill they can develop over time, rather than a trait they are born with, helps them earn higher grades in math.

A group of gay-straight alliance students hold a banner in a pride parade

Problem: Teens are notoriously intolerant of people who do not think, act, or look like them.

Solution: When just one teen stands up to prejudice, his or her peers often follow suit.

A girl studying

Problem: Many promising students earn bad grades their first year of college.

Solution: Informing college freshmen that many first-years stumble, but then do better, helps them pull up their GPAs.

Group of civil rights protestors

Problem: People who value equality fail to support civil rights. 

Solution: Making people aware that their values and behaviors do not align motivates them to change their ways.

Heal Past Traumas by Writing About Them

Man's hands writing with a pen

Problem: Routine stresses and traumatic life events like a divorce make us more prone to illness.  

Solution: Writing about upsetting experiences makes us happier and healthier.

Students sitting at graduation

Problem: Even the most prepared students of color have worse grades and health than their European-American classmates.

Solution: When African-Americans are reassured that they belong in school, their grades and health improve.

Problem: We are often uneasy around people of other races.

Solution: Befriending just one person of a different race lowers anxiety and prejudice and makes it easier to cross racial boundaries in the future.

Problem: People with low self-esteem feel less love from their partners and have more trouble in relationships.   

Solution: Teaching people with low self-esteem to interpret their partner’s compliments as deep and enduring, rather than as shallow and fleeting, helps them feel loved and act better in their relationships.

Problem: Many kids’ grades fall when they make the transition from elementary to middle school.  

Solution: Teaching middle-school students to think of intelligence as a skill they can develop over time, rather than a talent they were born with (or not), helps them persist in the face of setbacks and earn better grades.

Problem: Most eligible American voters don’t vote in most elections. 

Solution: Messages about “being a voter,” rather than just “voting,” increase registration and turnout in state and national elections.

A woman in workout attire writes in a notebook

Problem: Obesity is the second leading cause of preventable death in the United States. 

Solution: Writing about what’s really important in life can help people shed the pounds.

Sad looking boy

Problem: Each year in the United States, some 700,000 children are abused and neglected, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Many of these children will grow up to have poorer health, lower incomes, and worse jobs than their peers who were not abused and neglected. 

Solution: Training parents to interpret childrearing challenges as problems they can solve, rather than as evidence that they or their children are bad people, reduces child abuse.

Letter that reads: "Dear Hohn, It has been some time since you were here at the hospital, and we hope...

Problem: Suicide is a leading cause of death, and it is notoriously difficult to prevent.

Solution: Regularly receiving letters from a caring person helps people at risk for committing suicide feel connected and stay alive.

African Tutsis sit

Problem: Nearly 20 years after war and genocide killed 75% of Rwandan Tutsis, the accused perpetrators and their survivors must now learn to live side by side.

Solution: A radio soap opera that shows people how to speak out against corrupt leaders and reconnect with their neighbors helps communities heal after genocide. 

When you care it shows. We are committed to energy and resource conservation. An an effort to conserve thousands of gallons of water each day, we will be changing your linens every third day and at check-out. If you would like your sheets changed daily, simply place this card on your pillow.

Problem: Small acts like reusing a hotel towel can save thousands of gallons of water, detergent, and oil every day. But most hotel guests use their towels only once before having it washed. 

Solution: A simple message that appeals to our desire to fit in with people like us - that is, to follow local social norms - moves hotel guests to reuse their towels.


Problem: American schools do not produce enough scientists, mathematicians, and engineers to meet the needs of 21st century workplaces. 

Solution: With a little guidance, parents can increase how many advanced math and science classes their teenagers take.

A couple arguing in a park

Problem: People usually become less satisfied with their marriages over time. And the unhappier the marriage, the unhealthier the spouses.

Solution: When spouses imagine what a neutral third party would think during their fights, they protect their love and commitment.

African American students in class

Problem: Students of color lag behind their European American counterparts at every level of education.

Solution: Writing about a personal value for just 15 minutes at the beginning of the semester elevates African Americans' grades, closing the gap between European American and African American students by 40 percent.

Screenshot from Facebook: Find your polling place on the US Politics Page and click the "I Voted" button to tell your friends you voted

Problem: Many Americans don't vote. 

Solution: Online social networks like Facebook can easily and cheaply send thousands of people to the voting booth.