Nudge: Improving Decisions about Health, Wealth, and Happiness is the title of a 2008 book written by Professors Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein1. The book introduces the notion of choice architecture and draws on findings from behavioural economics.
Consider two cafeterias that want to help students consume less junk food. One cafeteria decides to attack the problem by placing a “tax” on junk foods or by banning the sale of junk foods altogether2. The other cafeteria decides to change their food display so that junk foods will less likely be cho-sen. Junk foods will be placed on higher, harder-to-reach shelves while healthy foods will be placed at eye level and within arm’s reach. Both cafeterias are trying to influence the behaviour but are using two entirely different methods. The first cafeteria is influencing behaviour by either financially in-centivizing students to choose healthier options or restricting their options and thus, their freedom of choice altogether3. The second cafeteria does neither but uses a nudging strategy:
“A nudge is any aspect of the choice architecture that alters people’s behaviour in a predictable way without forbidding any options or significantly changing their eco-nomic consequences. To count as a mere nudge, the intervention must be easy and cheap to avoid. Nudges are not mandates. Putting fruit at eye level [to attract atten-tion and hence increase likelihood of getting chosen] counts as a nudge. Banning junk food does not.”