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Nudging – convincing people without force

How can people be encouraged to act in a certain way? This question is as old as mankind and has recently led to the foundation of BETA, the Behavioural Economics Team of the Australian Government. Trying different measures, they attempt to nudge people to act in different ways. But what is a nudge? “A nudge […] is any aspect of the choice architecture that alters people’s behavior in a predictable way without forbidding any options or significantly changing their economic incentives. […] Putting fruit at eye level counts as a nudge. Banning junk food does not.” (Thaler & Sunstein 2008, p. 6).

BETA has been very successful since its foundation in 2015. With simple measures such as sending a personalized letter to doctors comparing their (over)prescription of antibiotics to other doctors, the prescription of antibiotics was reduced by 12 %. Similar measures significantly increased the number of tax returns handed in on time.

Nudging not only offers opportunities for governments but also for businesses we find. If companies started using nudges systematically, they could encourage a change in mindset and culture more easily. Instead of expecting one major change in mindset overnight, people can be nudged to change their behavior day by day. Sometimes smaller means have greater impact. This is why we have started using nudging in our work with our clients.