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Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health,…
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Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness (2008)

by Richard H. Thaler, Cass R. Sunstein, Cass R. Sunstein

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
1,723354,111 (3.51)28
  1. 80
    Freakonomics: a Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything by Steven D. Levitt (espertus)
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    Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking by Malcolm Gladwell (infiniteletters)
  3. 10
    Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman (lewbs)
  4. 10
    Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think by Brian Wansink (Cecilturtle)
  5. 00
    Coercion: Why We Listen to What "They" Say by Douglas Rushkoff (elenchus)
    elenchus: Two sides of the same coin: Rushkoff's Coercion examines how influence or manipulation is to the detriment of the individual's self interest, precisely in order to benefit someone else (usually selling something); Thaler's Nudge as a deliberate effort to influence an individual in the direction of their own self interest, when typical behavior is found to be against their own interests (such as unhealthy eating habits or overspending).… (more)
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    De Menselijke Beslisser: Over De Psychologie Van Keuze En Gedrag (WRR Verkenningen) (Dutch Edition) by W.L. Tiemeijer (peter_vandenbrande)
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» See also 28 mentions

English (34)  French (1)  All languages (35)
Showing 1-5 of 34 (next | show all)
Nudge by Richard H. Thaler and Cass B. Sunstein. This was one of The Economist magazine's Books of the Year in 2008. Thaler and Sunstein are behavioral economists who show several examples of how applying behavioral economics can lead to more optimal outcomes. Given that some of President Obama's advisers are steeped in Chicago school behavioral economics this seems to be an ideal read.

The authors coin the phrase "libertarian paternalism." They believe that government can leave people with the freedom of choice but "nudge" them in making socially optimal decisions. Taxing gasoline is one old-school simple example. You can still buy it, but you're nudged to buy less.

An example more characteristic of their approach is what the city of Chicago did with Lakeshore Drive. The city simply painted lines on the pavement that are evenly spaced and then become closer together over a distance. When you're driving over them at a constant speed it gives the sensation of accelerating. This causes drivers to think they're going too fast and to slow down. Drawing fake speed bumps is also used in some towns. You're still free to drive the speed limit but you're "nudged" to slow down.

Thaler and Sunstein apply their studies to health care reform, social security privatization, the "privatization" of marriage, losing weight, saving energy and more.

The idea of the free market not leading to ideal outcomes is controversial among many on the right as is the idea of paternalistic "nanny state" government correcting those outcomes. Thaler and Sunstein are aiming for liberty while acknowledging that maybe we'd all be better off since people are not always rational agents (a fact that is a cornerstone of behavioral economics).

I find some of their wit gets old after a while. Some of their ideas are very practical, others seem to be a stretch. Almost all of it (except for the simple examples above) is politically impossible. Their examples came in very handy in the class I am teaching, though.

I give it 3.5 stars out of 5.

And now I will fulfill my New Years resolution to read my older books in order of purchase. ( )
  justindtapp | Jun 3, 2015 |
I couldn't continue to subject myself to a man referring to a 'normal society' as Homer Simpsons. When he started out by explaining to the reader (me) what a footnote is he lost my respect. I can't take seriously a person who can't treat his audience as his equal. I see his point, and it's true, we are nudged every day from the big to the small. I will finish this book, if only so I can know what's coming and prepare accordingly, but don't expect a rating higher than 1 star from me. ( )
  ericadrayton | Jan 8, 2015 |
This book took me 5 years to read! Yes, five years!

When I was working a mad full time job and there was no one in the house to receive deliveries during the week, it always befell me to go the Post Office to collect on a Saturday morning. The queue always stretched out of the office into the street, one time it had about 40 people in it – I gave in that day. The average number of the people in the line was about 8. I put Nudge in the car and read it while I waiting patiently in line. Then there was a lull, and then the orthodontic visits started with my daughter. It was at the dentists I actually finished the book (not at tooth-hurty!).

The book is very interesting and it is all about the architecture of choice, it’s actually about common sense and not having enough time to make decisions. OK, it’s about being educated as well. I found some parts a little repetitive and academic, once you have the basic premise about ‘opting in’ or ‘opting out’, it does not need to go on too much about it with detailed examples, you can tell it is written by academics. Imagine if I’d read it over a few weeks? For this reason I found the first half of the book much more interesting than the latter half. ( )
  IanMPindar | Jan 2, 2015 |
L'idea, anche se non si distingue per originalita', è illustrata in modo saggio ed esaustivo. I riferimenti sono - ahime' - verso la realta' statunitense, dove vige altra mentalita', altra cultura, altra sagacia rispetto a quella italiota.
Il testo potrebbe essere utile per amministratori o tecnici di piccole realta' locali, dove l'intelligenza privata puo' ancora fare qualcosa. Per le persone che possono effettivamente cambiare qualcosa nella vita delle persone questo testo rimane l'ennesimo pamphlet intelligente, circostanziato e con esempi, con il quale pulirsi il reverendissimo deretano. ( )
  bobparr | Dec 14, 2014 |
This book took me 5 years to read! Yes, five years!

When I was working a mad full time job and there was no one in the house to receive deliveries during the week, it always befell me to go the Post Office to collect on a Saturday morning. The queue always stretched out of the office into the street, one time it had about 40 people in it – I gave in that day. The average number of the people in the line was about 8. I put Nudge in the car and read it while I waiting patiently in line. Then there was a lull, and then the orthodontic visits started with my daughter. It was at the dentists I actually finished the book (not at tooth-hurty!).

The book is very interesting and it is all about the architecture of choice, it’s actually about common sense and not having enough time to make decisions. OK, it’s about being educated as well. I found some parts a little repetitive and academic, once you have the basic premise about ‘opting in’ or ‘opting out’, it does not need to go on too much about it with detailed examples, you can tell it is written by academics. Imagine if I’d read it over a few weeks? For this reason I found the first half of the book much more interesting than the latter half.
I suggest if you are reading it, you read it in no less than three years. The big question is: What book to put in the car now? Or have smart phones made books in cars redundant? What if I can’t get a reception? – I’m opting in.

The Writing IMP ( )
  IanMPindar | Sep 8, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 34 (next | show all)
Although Nudge has no positive redeeming qualities, there is some value in what it reveals about contemporary politics. Thaler and Sunstein have unwittingly exposed an increasingly popular approach to whittling away freedom in America.
 

» Add other authors (2 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Richard H. Thalerprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Sunstein, Cass R.main authorall editionsconfirmed
Sunstein, Cass R.main authorall editionsconfirmed
Bausum, ChristophTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
James, LloydNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Pratt, SeanNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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For France, who makes everything in life better, even this book. - RHT
For Ellyn, who knows when to nudge her father. - CRS
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 014311526X, Paperback)

Questions for Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein

Amazon.com: What do you mean by "nudge" and why do people sometimes need to be nudged?

Thaler and Sunstein: By a nudge we mean anything that influences our choices. A school cafeteria might try to nudge kids toward good diets by putting the healthiest foods at front. We think that it's time for institutions, including government, to become much more user-friendly by enlisting the science of choice to make life easier for people and by gentling nudging them in directions that will make their lives better.

Amazon.com: What are some of the situations where nudges can make a difference?

Thaler and Sunstein: Well, to name just a few: better investments for everyone, more savings for retirement, less obesity, more charitable giving, a cleaner planet, and an improved educational system. We could easily make people both wealthier and healthier by devising friendlier choice environments, or architectures.

Amazon.com: Can you describe a nudge that is now being used successfully?

Thaler and Sunstein: One example is the Save More Tomorrow program. Firms offer employees who are not saving very much the option of joining a program in which their saving rates are automatically increased whenever the employee gets a raise. This plan has more than tripled saving rates in some firms, and is now offered by thousands of employers.

Amazon.com: What is "choice architecture" and how does it affect the average person's daily life?

Thaler and Sunstein: Choice architecture is the context in which you make your choice. Suppose you go into a cafeteria. What do you see first, the salad bar or the burger and fries stand? Where's the chocolate cake? Where's the fruit? These features influence what you will choose to eat, so the person who decides how to display the food is the choice architect of the cafeteria. All of our choices are similarly influenced by choice architects. The architecture includes rules deciding what happens if you do nothing; what's said and what isn't said; what you see and what you don't. Doctors, employers, credit card companies, banks, and even parents are choice architects.

We show that by carefully designing the choice architecture, we can make dramatic improvements in the decisions people make, without forcing anyone to do anything. For example, we can help people save more and invest better in their retirement plans, make better choices when picking a mortgage, save on their utility bills, and improve the environment simultaneously. Good choice architecture can even improve the process of getting a divorce--or (a happier thought) getting married in the first place!

Amazon.com: You are very adamant about allowing people to have choice, even though they may make bad ones. But if we know what's best for people, why just nudge? Why not push and shove?

Thaler and Sunstein: Those who are in position to shape our decisions can overreach or make mistakes, and freedom of choice is a safeguard to that. One of our goals in writing this book is to show that it is possible to help people make better choices and retain or even expand freedom. If people have their own ideas about what to eat and drink, and how to invest their money, they should be allowed to do so.

Amazon.com: You point out that most people spend more time picking out a new TV or audio device than they do choosing their health plan or retirement investment strategy? Why do most people go into what you describe as "auto-pilot mode" even when it comes to making important long-term decisions?

Thaler and Sunstein: There are three factors at work. First, people procrastinate, especially when a decision is hard. And having too many choices can create an information overload. Research shows that in many situations people will just delay making a choice altogether if they can (say by not joining their 401(k) plan), or will just take the easy way out by selecting the default option, or the one that is being suggested by a pushy salesman.

Second, our world has gotten a lot more complicated. Thirty years ago most mortgages were of the 30-year fixed-rate variety making them easy to compare. Now mortgages come in dozens of varieties, and even finance professors can have trouble figuring out which one is best. Since the cost of figuring out which one is best is so hard, an unscrupulous mortgage broker can easily push unsophisticated borrowers into taking a bad deal.

Third, although one might think that high stakes would make people pay more attention, instead it can just make people tense. In such situations some people react by curling into a ball and thinking, well, err, I'll do something else instead, like stare at the television or think about baseball. So, much of our lives is lived on auto-pilot, just because weighing complicated decisions is not so easy, and sometimes not so fun. Nudges can help ensure that even when we're on auto-pilot, or unwilling to make a hard choice, the deck is stacked in our favor.

Amazon.com: Are we humans just poorly adapted for making sound judgments in an increasingly fast-paced and complex world? What can we do to position ourselves better?

Thaler and Sunstein: The human brain is amazing, but it evolved for specific purposes, such as avoiding predators and finding food. Those purposes do not include choosing good credit card plans, reducing harmful pollution, avoiding fatty foods, and planning for a decade or so from now. Fortunately, a few nudges can help a lot. A few small hints: Sign up for automatic payment plans so you don’t pay late fees. Stop using your credit cards until you can pay them off on time every month. Make sure you're enrolled in a 401(k) plan. A final hint: Read Nudge.



Review
"How often do you read a book that is both important and amusing, both practical and deep? This gem of a book presents the best idea that has come out of behavioral economics. It is a must-read for anyone who wants to see both our minds and our society working better. It will improve your decisions and it will make the world a better place."-Daniel Kahneman, Princeton University, Nobel Laureate in Economics (Daniel Kahneman )

"In this utterly brilliant book, Thaler and Sunstein teach us how to steer people toward better health, sounder investments, and cleaner environments without depriving them of their inalienable right to make a mess of things if they want to. The inventor of behavioral economics and one of the nation''s best legal minds have produced the manifesto for a revolution in practice and policy. Nudge won''t nudge you-it will knock you off your feet."-Daniel Gilbert, professor of psychology, Harvard University, Author of Stumbling on Happiness (Daniel Gilbert )

"This is an engaging, informative, and thoroughly delightful book. Thaler and Sunstein provide important lessons for structuring social policies so that people still have complete choice over their own actions, but are gently nudged to do what is in their own best interests. Well done."-Don Norman, Northwestern University, Author of The Design of Everyday Things and The Design of Future Things (Don Norman )

"This book is terrific. It will change the way you think, not only about the world around you and some of its bigger problems, but also about yourself."-Michael Lewis, author of The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game and Liar''s Poker (Michael Lewis )

"Two University of Chicago professors sketch a new approach to public policy that takes into account the odd realities of human behavior, like the deep and unthinking tendency to conform. Even in areas-like energy consumption-where conformity is irrelevant. Thaler has documented the ways people act illogically."-Barbara Kiviat, Time (Barbara Kiviat Time )

"Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein''s Nudge is a wonderful book: more fun than any important book has a right to be-and yet it is truly both."-Roger Lowenstein, author of When Genius Failed (Roger Lowenstein )

"A manifesto for using the recent behavioral research to help people, as well as government agencies, companies and charities, make better decisions."-David Leonhardt, The New York Times Magazine (David Leonhardt The New York Times Magazine )

"I love this book. It is one of the few books I''ve read recently that fundamentally changes the way I think about the world. Just as surprising, it is fun to read, drawing on examples as far afield as urinals, 401(k) plans, organ donations, and marriage. Academics aren''t supposed to be able to write this well."-Steven Levitt, Alvin Baum Professor of Economics, University of Chicago Graduate School of Business and co-author of Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything (Steven Levitt )

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:01:40 -0400)

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Offering a study of the application of the science of choice, a guide that uses examples from all aspects of life demonstrates how it is possible to design environments that make it more likely for us to act in our own interests.

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