Routes to Nudging: some reading

The obvious text to mention here is:

Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness.

by Richard H. Thaler and Cass R. Sunstein

Publisher: Yale University Press
ISBN: 9780300122237: Number of pages: 304

The notion of how to ‘nudge’ was brought to the fore by this 2008 book.

The primary complication with their text – written from the perspective of economists – arises from the assumption that you can help other people to nudge some-one else.

This text highlights how we make decisions about our lives but – too often – we choose poorly. This approach to ‘nudging’ is not so respectful of the ‘small defeat’ and the ways in which we ‘have’ to get it wrong in order to get it right.

Thaler and Sunstein are helpful in showing how humans are susceptible to various biases that can lead us to blunder. They say we can do things differently if we take humanness as a given and work with it – rather than against it. They invite us to enter an alternative world, They show that by knowing how people think, we can design choice environments that make it easier for people to choose what is best for themselves, their families, and their society. However, this view neglects the fundamental issue: who designs the experiment and how can we learn from the results. Mistakes do not always make us poorer; the scenic route, with small defeats and small victories. is able to teach us important lessons.

There is a web site addressing the larger political issues relating to nudging:

http://nudges.org/

This web site highlights how ‘nudging’ arose from a wish to change others – it’s what politicians do – and it may well be an important motivator for people to go into politics! I want my own web site to provide an antidote to this paternalism by asking you how you will design experiments based on the victories and defeats you will experience.

Tell me your views ....

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