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The book draws on research in psychology and behavioral economics to defend libertarian paternalism and active engineering of choice architecture. The book also popularised the concept of nudge theory. A nudge, according to Thaler and Sunstein is any form of choice architecture that alters people's behaviour in a predictable way without restricting options or significantly changing their economic incentives. To count as a mere nudge, the intervention must require minimal intervention and must be cheap.
Choice architecture describes the way in which decisions are influenced by how the choices are presented. People can be "nudged" by arranging the choice architecture in a certain way without taking away the individual's freedom of choice. A simple example of a nudge would be placing healthy foods in a school cafeteria at eye level while putting less-healthy junk food in harder-to-reach places. Individuals are not actually prevented from eating whatever they want, but arranging the food choices that way causes people to eat less junk food and more healthy food.
Sunstein and Thaler apply the idea of nudges in the context of choice architecture to propose policy recommendations in the spirit of libertarian paternalism. They have recommendations in the areas of finance, health, the environment, schools, and marriage. They believe these problems can at least be partially addressed by improving the choice architecture.
Sunstein and Thaler also propose a way to increase organ donation rates in the United States. They argue that a mandated choice program should be put in place, where, in order for someone to renew their driver's license, they must say whether or not they would like to be an organ donor. They also advocate the creation of websites which would suggest that the wider community supports organ donation in order to nudge people into becoming organ donors themselves.
George Will's review for Newsweek magazine stated that "nudges have the additional virtue of annoying those busybody, nanny-state liberals who, as the saying goes, do not care what people do as long as it is compulsory".
British journalist Bryan Appleyard, in a review for The Times, was critical of the book, describing it as a "very, very dull read, a dogged march through social policies with boring lists of what nudges should be imposed and how" and that "what the book needs is not more examples but more elaboration of the central idea".
You need more than just nudge ... Behavioural change interventions appear to work best when they're part of a package of regulation and fiscal measures ... all politicians love quick fixes ... one of the problems with all of this is if you really want to change people's behaviour it takes a very long time ... you have to look at a 20- to 25-year span before you get a full change of behaviour.
American law professor Pierre Schlag notes that, for all their attention to framing issues, Sunstein and Thaler neglect a number of important questions: "(1) What to optimize? (2) When is a nudge a shove? (3) Should we prefer experts? and (4) When do we nudge?"
Gerd Gigerenzer, a psychologist, in his 2015 article "On the Supposed Evidence for Libertarian Paternalism," wrote, "Since the publication of Thaler and Sunstein's (2008) Nudge, almost everything that affects behavior has been renamed a nudge, which renders this concept meaningless."
The nudge concept was popularized in the 2008 book Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness, by behavioral economist Richard Thaler and legal scholar Cass Sunstein, two American scholars at the University of Chicago. It has influenced British and American politicians. Several nudge units exist around the world at the national level (UK, Germany, Japan, and others) as well as at the international level (e.g. World Bank, UN, and the European Commission). It is disputed whether "nudge theory" is a recent novel development in behavioral economics or merely a new term for one of many methods for influencing behavior, investigated in the science of behavior analysis.
There have been some controversies regarding effectiveness of nudges. Maier et al. wrote that, after correcting the publication bias found by Mertens et al., there is no evidence that nudging would have any effect. However, nudging is an umbrella term referring to many techniques, and skeptics of nudging also believe that it is possible that some nudges (e.g. default effect) can be sometimes highly effective and some nudges have minimal if any effect, and call for future work that shift away from investigating average effects but focus on moderators instead. Furthermore, a meta analysis of all unpublished nudging studies carried by nudge units with over 23 million individuals in United Kingdom and United States found support for many nudges, but with substantially weaker effects than effects found in published studies. Moreover, some researchers criticized "one-nudge-for-all" approach and advocated for more studies and implementations of personalized nudging (based on individual differences), which appear to be substantially more effective, with more robust and consistent evidence base.
The first formulation of the term nudge and associated principles was developed in cybernetics by James Wilk before 1995 and described by Brunel University academic D. J. Stewart as "the art of the nudge" (sometimes referred to as micronudges). It also drew on methodological influences from clinical psychotherapy tracing back to Gregory Bateson, including contributions from Milton Erickson, Watzlawick, Weakland and Fisch, and Bill O'Hanlon. In this variant, the nudge is a microtargeted design geared towards a specific group of people, irrespective of the scale of intended intervention.
In 2008, Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein's book Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness brought nudge theory to prominence. The authors refer to the influencing of behaviour without coercion as libertarian paternalism and the influencers as choice architects.
A nudge, as we will use the term, is any aspect of the choice architecture that alters people's behavior in a predictable way without forbidding any options or significantly changing their economic incentives. To count as a mere nudge, the intervention must be easy and cheap to avoid. Nudges are not mandates. Putting fruit at eye level counts as a nudge. Banning junk food does not.
One of the most frequently cited examples of a nudge is the etching of the image of a housefly into the men's room urinals at Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport, which is intended to "improve the aim."
A nudge makes it more likely that an individual will make a particular choice, or behave in a particular way, by altering the environment so that automatic cognitive processes are triggered to favour the desired outcome.
Nudging techniques aim to use judgmental heuristics to the advantage of the party that is creating the set of choices. In other words, a nudge alters the environment so that when heuristic, or System 1, decision-making is used, the resulting choice will be the most positive or desired outcome. An example of such a nudge is switching the placement of junk food in a store, so that fruit and other healthy options are located next to the cash register, while junk food is relocated to another part of the store.
A social-proof heuristic refers to the tendency for individuals to look at the behavior of other people to help guide their own behavior. Studies have found some success in using social-proof heuristics to nudge individuals to make healthier food choices.
When an individual's attention is drawn towards a particular option, that option will become more salient to the individual and they will be more likely to choose that option. As an example, in snack shops at train stations in the Netherlands, consumers purchased more fruit and healthy snack options when they were relocated next to the cash register. Since then, other similar studies have been made regarding the placement of healthier food options close to the checkout counter and the effect on the consuming behavior of the customers and this is now considered an effective and well-accepted nudge.
During their terms, both U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron and U.S. President Barack Obama may have sought to employ nudge theory to advance domestic policy goals in their respective countries. In 2008, the United States appointed Cass Sunstein, who helped develop the theory, as administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs. In 2010, the British Behavioural Insights Team, or "Nudge Unit," was established at the British Cabinet Office and headed by psychologist David Halpern.
For instance, nudge is applied to health, safety, and environment (HSE) with the primary goals of achieving a "zero accident culture." The concept is also used as a key component in a lot of human-resources software.
Particular forerunners in the application of nudge theory in corporate settings are top Silicon Valley companies. These companies are using nudges in various forms to increase productivity and happiness of employees. Recently, more companies are gaining interest in using what is called "nudge management" to improve the productivity of their white-collar workers.
Lately, nudge theory has also been used in different ways to help healthcare professionals make more deliberate decisions in numerous areas. For example, nudging has been used as a way to improve hand hygiene among healthcare workers to decrease the number of healthcare-associated infections. It has also been used as a way to make fluid administration a more thought-out decision in intensive care units, with the intention of reducing well known complications of fluid overload. 2b1af7f3a8