“A nudge…is any aspect of the choice architecture that alters people’s behaviour in a predictable way without forbidding options or significantly changing their economic incentives.”
This is a book about influencing behaviour. It describes how poor we all are at thinking clearly and making well-considered decisions. Knowing these shared human frailties helps those who have an influencing role or responsibility to shape the process.
Even when we think they are, the choices we make are not always rational. People don’t choose freely as the context always shapes choice. Choice Architects can deliberately design contexts to nudge people in beneficial directions.
According to the authors – in an echo of Daniel Kahneman’s fast and slow systems – our decisions are often overruled by an ‘automatic’ system when the more laborious ‘reflective’ system needs to be deployed. The answers which come intuitively, quickly and ‘automatically’ also come burdened by unconscious bias. Examples of bias cited include
- Anchoring – familiarity influences your later reasoning
- Availability – decisions are made based on what we have ‘valid’ experience of
- Similarity – judgements based on how ‘representative’ it is of their own experience
- Optimism – humans are overly optimistic about their own abilities – 90% of us think we are great drivers – and future outcomes
- Gains and losses – persisting with a loss because you made the original choice
- Status quo – people like things to stay the same
- Social influence – you are more likely to agree to an operation if you know others survived
- Priming – asking questions beforehand such as are you likely to vote increases the likelihood of them doing it
“Although rules of thumb can be very helpful, their use can also lead to systematic biases.”
People decide based on their own ‘simple truths’ in which they have invested over time. They’re hard to shift, but by helping people understand the implications of their choices, they make better choices.
The authors point out that whilst some think the best choices come from having totally free options in a free market, it’s not the case. People make bad decisions if they believe bad data, lack key facts or are misled by someone with selfish interests. To nudge better decisions –
- Give comparisons. Weigh the choices because the way you frame the choice shapes the choice.
- Provide beneficial defaults. When you give default options from which people benefit, they are less likely to opt out.
- Make data transparent and accessible
- Guide the decision rather than regulate it.
This book is a fascinating and influential read. Across the world governments and agencies have been nudged into using their ideas.