Nudging, but Ethically

BYU faculty in 2013 looked at fluid dynamics as well as human behavior. The painted ‘bug’ is a nudge. http://phys.org/news/2013-11-university-physicists-urine-splash-back-tactics.html

To persuade you need to set the stage. One tactic that behavioral economists have recently explored is nudging, or as Richard H. Thaler writes, “small design changes that can markedly affect individual behavior.”

Thaler has a code of conduct for “good nudging”, focusing on transparency, easy opt-outs, and the encouragement of good beaviour. But like everything, nudging can be used to improper ends:

Some argue that phishing — or evil nudging — is more dangerous in government than in the private sector. The argument is that government is a monopoly with coercive power, while we have more choice in the private sector over which newspapers we read and which airlines we fly.CONTINUE READING THE MAIN STORY27COMMENTSI think this distinction is overstated. In a democracy, if a government creates bad policies, it can be voted out of office. Competition in the private sector, however, can easily work to encourage phishing rather than stifle it.

Source: The Power of Nudges, for Good and Bad – The New York Times

Nudging can be a bit faddish, and already may be seen as not working in many cases. But as Peter B. Reiner writes, “modernity is the ultimate temptress”–and nudging (for good) may be just what we need to make better choices.

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