Freedom is a wonderful thing, one of the foundations of civilized society. We prize freedom over potentially anything else. However, what happens if people fail to use their freedom ‘wisely’? What if they make poor decisions, or do things that are not in their self-interest? Nudge theorists state that we should ’nudge’ them in the right direction through small suggestions and subtle environmental changes, without compromising their freedom per se. Some examples may help to illustrate what we mean.
The UK government, who has a whole political department influenced by Nudge theory, was worried about their citizens’ lack of pension savings. So, they made pension plans opt out, rather than opt in, meaning one has to contact the government if they do not want to save. This resulted in higher pension savings. Likewise, small changes in wording in letters demanding tax payments to suggest those in arrears are outliers results in faster payments. On a lighter note, men missing the targets at the urinal dismayed the Dutch authorities, and so one institution placed a small picture of a fly inside every urinal, which resulted in a straighter aim.
So, the gist of Nudge theory is that individual choices can be influenced without compromising human freedom. It is precisely for this reason that Nudge theory is sometimes known as ‘liberal paternalism’.
See the infographic below from psysci for more info about Nudge theory.
You May Also Like