Why citizens and consumers often need a nudge

In 2008, a book was published which proved seminal in discussions about how people make decisions and how they can be encouraged to make better decisions. It was called “Nudge” and written by two American academics called Richard H Thaler & Cass R Sunstein.  I have reviewed the work here.

Today Sunstein has an article in the “Guardian: newspaper in which he explains:

 both private and public institutions have been exploring the potential of “nudges” – approaches that steer people towards certain outcomes while also allowing them to go their own way. A GPS is a classic example of a nudge. So are disclosure requirements, warnings, email reminders, statements about social norms (“most people pay their taxes on time”), the use of bright colours and large fonts, simplified forms, cafeterias that put healthy foods first, and default rules which might automatically enrol people in a pension plan.”

He argues:

“The beauty of nudges is that when they are well chosen, they make people’s lives better while maintaining freedom of choice. Moreover, they usually don’t cost a lot, and they tend to have big effects. In an economically challenging time,”


“The great advantage of nudges is that they recognise the diversity of people’s situations and the risk of government error, while acknowledging people’s legitimate interest in preserving their own liberty. No one denies that requirements and bans have their place. But in a society that respects its citizens, we should start with a presumption in favour of freedom of choice.”

You can read Sunstein’s article here.


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