Nudge is a concept in behavioural science, political theory and economics which proposes positive reinforcement and indirect suggestions as ways to influence the behavior and decision making of groups or individuals. Nudging contrasts with other ways to achieve compliance, such as education, legislation or enforcement. The concept has influenced British and American politicians. Several nudge units exist around the world at the federal level (UK, Germany, Japan and others) as well as at the international level (OECD, World Bank, UN).
Nudges are small changes in environment that are easy and inexpensive to implement. Several different techniques exist for nudging, including defaults, social proof heuristics, and increasing the salience of the desired option.
A default option is the option an individual automatically receives if he or she does nothing. People are more likely to choose a particular option if it is the default option.For example, Pichert & Katsikopoulos found that a greater number of consumers chose the renewable energy option for electricity when it was offered as the default option.
A social proof heuristic refers to the tendency for individuals to look at the behaviour of other people to help guide their own behaviour. Studies have found some success in using social proof heuristics to nudge individuals to make healthier food choices.
When an individual’s attention is drawn towards a particular option, that option will become more salient to the individual, and he or she will be more likely to choose to that option. As an example, in snack shops at train stations in the Netherlands, consumers purchased more fruit and healthy snack options when they were relocated next to the cash register.
Aim for the Fly
The urinal fly nudge is a well known mind hack that originated at the Amsterdam airport, but can now be seen in urinals all over the globe. By having images of flies etched near the drains of the bathroom urinals, spillage on the bathroom floor was reduced by 80%
Dollar a Day
he Dollar a day program is an ambitious program established in Greensboro, North Carolina in 1990, with other cities experimenting with the program since. The program aims to decrease the rate of teenage births by focusing on decreasing the rate of further pregnancies in teenage mothers.
Because the payment is recurring, it serves as constant encouragement for young mothers to take necessary steps to avoid another pregnancy, while also posing the potential to decrease taxpayer spending (the state spent $392 million on teen childbirths in 2008). The state’s peak birth rate in teens is down 55% from what its high in 1991, and part of that is significant decrease can be credited to a program based off of nudging behaviour.
Opt Out Organ Donation
Wales has recently joined a list of countries which now require citizens to opt out of becoming an organ donor. This small change has led to huge increases in the availability to organs for those who require transplants. The scheme is simple and ingenious as it places only a small demand on those who wish to stay off the organ donor registry, they simply indicate their wish to be removed from the list. But the greatest loss for those who need new organs has always been those who may well be happy to give their organs but have never bothered to opt in. That step has now been removed and countries that have instituted this new system have reported far higher availability of donor organs.
Croatia’s Musical Stairs
I was made aware of this invention by my lecturers who used it as an example of behaviour change by nudging. The idea is very simple, there is a new incentive to take the stairs (the healthy option) over the escalator (the sedentary option) and thus, the use of the stairs as a percentage of pedestrian traffic, increases dramatically.
These nudges represent a core concept I was to take full advantage of in my project. I’ve learned first hand how unlikely a person is to make a long term lifestyle change if the disruption to them is more than absolutely minimal. I’ve had friends ask for gym training and decide to go four times a week before giving it up in a fortnight because it’s too hard and disruptive to their day to day life. It only remains for me to find a way of implementing this directly into my campaign with my own examples of Nudge Theory.