Nudging - Definition
“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.“ (Thaler & Sunstein, 2008)
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The term „nudge“ was introduced in 2008 by Sunstein and Thaler in their international bestselling book “Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth and Happiness”. Nudge is based on the concept of choice architecture. Choice architecture includes all material and immaterial aspects of a certain environment, which influence people’s behaviour. Nudges are those aspects of the architecture, which influence regularly and predictable without forbidding or prescribing certain options or to put significant economic incentives.
We understand nudging as a special method of communication. Nudging per se does not include a certain objective, but uses the same technique that is applied in marketing, advertising and product placement in the commercial sector. But here is also the difference: the goal of nudging is not to increase more profit, but to increase social welfare in society – in our case: improving health.
One main goal that many nudging initiatives follow, is the ambition to transparently evaluate the interventions. This is obviously also our goal! Many nudging interventions in the health sector have proved to be very effective others did not just like other (non-nudge) interventions. But let’s face reality: so many companies would not invest so much money in advertising if they could not influence their customers…
A clear NO! Nudging or the application of behavioural sciences is just a method, not a dogma. P The initiatives around preventing and combating tobacco consumption worldwide are a great and successful example of reducing tobacco consumption in the public, combining information, empowerment, taxes, restrictions and nudging elements. Nudging can be seen as one important part of instruments in public health and healthcare, but is not able to replace education or laws.
Well, there is no way to circumvent Thaler’s and Sunstein’s bestseller if you want to get familiar with nudging. On top of that, there is a very comprehensive selection of nudging opportunities in health care by Perry et al.