The Ministry of Nudges: Persuasion, Applied.

How to change behavior? A group within the British government puts the notions of Richard H. Thaler and Cass R. Sunstein’s book into practice.

Manipulating behavior is old hat in the private sector, where advertisers and companies have been nudging consumers for decades. Just think of strategically placed chocolate bars at the checkout counter. But in public policy, nudge proponents study human behavior to try to figure out why people sometimes make choices that they themselves would consider poor. Then they test small changes in how those choices are presented, to see whether people can be steered toward better decisions — like putting apples, not chocolate bars, at eye level in school cafeterias. It is tricky to run perfectly controlled experiments in real-life situations, but proving the worth of nudges is a central principle of the program, Mr. Halpern said.

The benefits of refocusing the government enterprise could be significant, much in the way they are being put into place in the marketplace.  (Check out the tag “urinals” for that essential behavioral innovation, the “urinal fly.”)

“If you combine this very simple, very conservative thought — go with the grain of human nature — with all the advances in behavioral economics,” he said, “I think we can achieve a real increase in well-being, in happiness, in a stronger society without necessarily having to spend a whole lot more money.”

via Britain’s Ministry of Nudges – NYTimes.com.

According to Britain’s Conservative David Cameron, this could be “a new era–where governments themselves have less power (and less money)” resulting in the need for smart policy like this.

Britain’s Ministry of Nudges - NYTimes.com

And finally, here are a few of the Nudge Units’ findings on organ donations, court fines, charitable giving,

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5 Responses to The Ministry of Nudges: Persuasion, Applied.

  1. jmmorgan242 says:

    This idea is fascinating, and I believe it works, but there comes a point when you have to wonder if when government is trying “…to see whether people can be steered toward better decisions…” they will be able to stop with the small things. It may start with harmless manipulation to get people to pay their taxes. But I don’t want to be manipulated, subliminally or otherwise by my government. And what the government considers to be a “better decision” may not be the same as what I consider a “better decision.” I think that this sort of research, while fascinating, needs to be extremely carefully utilized, if at all. Governments should avoid reviving the old soviet propaganda machines to control their populations.

  2. taylorking2 says:

    This is the way that God teaches us! He subtly shows us how something will benefit us and then leaves it up to us to make the decision. I am a firm believer that whenever a person or government mimics what God does, they are more effective than before. Nobody likes to be told what to do. In politics it is no different. When one is trying to get support for a resolution it is important to remember that nobody likes being told what to do. People like to believe that they are the ones making the choice. We want to make sure that they are only making the choice if it is the choice that we want them to make. In that way we lead them down the path to doing what we need them to do.

  3. oliviaronna says:

    I like the above commentator’s notion that people like making their own ideas. If the government is bluntly telling/forcing people what to do, there will be resentment. However, by subtle manipulation, they can be effective in getting the people to do certain things. That being said, there is definitely a point as to when the government should no longer use this power. People do not like being manipulated, and if the government is tricking people into doing things completely against their interests, problems will occur.

  4. clintkunz says:

    I depend on reminders all the time. I am constantly putting reminders on my phone because if I don’t then I easily forget what I was supposed to do. In the example on the job interviewees it was stated that the purpose was to get a commitment- reminds me of missionary work. Commitment and reminders are what missionaries do. This article is interesting. In terms of macro-economics I think that the theory of the “Nudge” can benefit the overall good of a nation.

  5. jbs4395 says:

    I think this is a brilliant and fascinating idea. I really loved what David Cameron was trying to say when he stated, “‘If you combine this very simple, very conservative thought — go with the grain of human nature — with all the advances in behavioral economics… I think we can achieve a real increase in well-being, in happiness, in a stronger society without necessarily having to spend a whole lot more money.’” I completely agree with this ideology. Government that works WITH human nature in an effort to nudge people along in the right way is much more effective than government that over-regulates and forces people to do something. It’s a very clever approach to leadership.

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