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

by Richard H. Thaler, Cass R. Sunstein

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1,583None4,632 (3.52)28
Member:benjamin7857
Title:Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness
Authors:Richard H. Thaler
Other authors:Cass R. Sunstein
Info:New Haven ; London : Yale University Press, 2008
Collections:Nonfiction
Rating:
Tags:economics, environmental psychology, decision making, influence, paternalism, libertarian paternalism, choice, authoritarianism, behavioural economics

Work details

Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness by Richard H. Thaler (2008)

  1. 70
    Freakonomics: a Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything by Steven D. Levitt (espertus)
  2. 50
    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)
  6. 00
    De Menselijke Beslisser: Over De Psychologie Van Keuze En Gedrag (WRR Verkenningen) (Dutch Edition) by W.L. Tiemeijer (peter_vandenbrande)
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Showing 1-5 of 29 (next | show all)
As you struggle with New Year's resolutions, you might want to consider consulting this book for guidance.

At the time this book was published, both authors were professors at the University of Chicago. Both Thaler and Sunstein are firm believers in the efficacy of market forces, but they recognize that human beings often make choices that are bad for themselves (for a variety of reasons) in the long run. Both authors would like to limit government coercion in peoples’ lives, but they recognize that by providing good incentives, it can channel behavior in directions that will increase overall happiness and economic efficiency.

In the book, they articulate a philosophy they characterize as libertarian paternalism. It is libertarian in that it preserves individual free choice to the maximum extent advisable: as they say, “people should be free to do what they like-and to opt out of undesirable arrangements if they want to do so.” On the other hand, it is paternal in that it directs (but does not coerce) behavior in situations where many people have been known to make choices that do not make their lives “longer, healthier, and better.” Hence the term and the title, Nudge (as opposed to coerce or compel).

The authors develop concepts that were originally articulated over the years by Daniel Kahneman, Amos Tversky, and others concerning ways in which humans make poor choices. A more thorough analysis of these same concepts can be found in Kahneman’s 2011 book, Thinking, Fast and Slow. Thaler and Sunstein show that wise, non-coercive policies can be devised taking these human failings into consideration.

The result is a fascinating, lively account of how governments could help make life longer, healthier, and better through “choice architecture,” their term for a method of influencing decisions by how choices are presented. A simple example of choice architecture through a “nudge” is placing healthy foods in a school cafeteria at eye level, while putting less healthy junk food in harder to reach places. Individuals are not prevented from eating whatever they want, but arranging food choices in that way tends to decrease consumption of junk food and increase consumption of healthier foods. (More mundanely, they cite the technique of "hiding the cashew nuts.") Yet another example they adduce is that of “Clocky,” an alarm clock that runs away and hides if you don’t get out of bed on time.

Evaluation: "The Economist" rated Nudge the “Best Book of the Year.” Not all the critics have been so kind. I found that I raced through the first half, often laughing out loud, but the last half (consisting of numerous policy recommendations) sometimes became a bit heavy going. Nonetheless, I highly recommend this book, especially for legislators and other policy makers.

(JAB) ( )
  nbmars | Jan 3, 2014 |
There were some interesting points on how to set up choices to nudge people in the direction you want. Most people chose the default so make this option good. Use peer pressure, people listen to and do what their peers do, thus we could influence our students by informing them about what other students are doing. Use priming; when we ask students questions in a survey ask what they intend to do and it might influence them to follow through and do it. Keep in mind that giving people 46 choices and telling them to ask for help is likely to be about as good as no help at all. ( )
  avogl | Aug 4, 2013 |
Drawing on current thinking in psychology and behavioral economics, trends which have helped us to refine our understanding of human behavior and decision-making, Sunstein and Thaler lay out their conception of choice architectures. The way that information is presented matters. As human beings, we are not the fabled homo economicus, the autonomous, self-owning, rationally-deciding agents that have dominated thinking on these matters in the United States.

Choice architecture means that there is no such thing as a neutral default, and thus the responsibility for providing thoughtful, and perhaps (as becomes important) helpful, layouts is placed on those who do the designing. This matters in a bewildering range of domains, although the authors (rightly in my thinking) point out that cases where feedback is not readily forthcoming and in which the long-term consequences truly matter (such as dietary and financial decisions as well as matters affecting health and the environment) are demanding of the most attention.

Sunstein and Thaler espouse (what they argue to be) a benevolent form of interventionism which they label 'libertarian paternalism'. As self-proclaimed libertarians, they are nervous about heavy-handed interference in the form of bans and prohibitions, giving their preference to the soft-gloved approach of incentives and the eponymous 'nudges' made possible by choice architectures. This well-intended 'hands-off' intervention without interfering means to push people into making 'better' choices. However, 'better' remains, as ever, ill-defined and subject to arbitrary definition. Additionally there is a strong case to be made that intervention is intervention no matter how you label it; these methods are less overt, to be sure, but this same property could serve to better conceal their use in the toolkit of unsavory interests.

The remainder of the book runs through various proposals for using 'nudges' in public policy matters, and they do offer a range of ideas worth consideration (although some are questionable, connecting back to a recurrent theme that I will clarify shortly).

As an 'idea book' I would highly recommend giving Nudge a look. Sunstein and Thaler make a persuasive case for the nudge concept, right down to the science and their own political leanings. I have my own reservations about their argument and their perspective in making it (which seems to be largely accepting of, if not quite espousing, a status quo of which I find myself increasingly cynical), but I need not bog down the review with those issues.

As a read, I found the later chapters repetitive and I skimmed healthy chunks of them. Once the argument for the nudge is made in the first part of the book, the examples, while interesting, didn't seem quite as captivating (and this may be in part due to my own above-mentioned reservations rather than any true flaw, so this, too, should not be considered off-putting).

My concerns aside, the ideas here are largely sound, interesting, and, in fairness, I even agree with their broadest scope. The soft approach of 'nudging' seems preferable to more overt forms of intervention, and it's hard to disagree that this is an underused method of moving people toward better life-choices (we just have to sit down for a long think about what justifies our conceptions of 'better', although this is no new problem). ( )
  MattP225 | Apr 27, 2013 |
This book is not what I thought it would be.

I somehow thought it would be about how to improve decision *making* for, say, yourself (which would impact things like Health, Wealth, and Happiness), but it was about choice architecture and how to frame choices to make people choose what you think they should choose.

Which might have been interesting if that's what the book covered. There was a little bit about "choice architecture" in the beginning, but nothing that extended further than common sense. They then left discussion of choice architecture to focus on what the authors' thought should be the solution to problems like losing weight, medicare/health plans, marriage equality (same sex marriage) and retirement accounts (to focus on a few).

And then there was lots of discussion about how they are libertarian paternalists, which really stuck in my craw. It basically came down to: how they would try to push ("nudge") people into choosing what is "best." Best being completely subjective at the discretion of the authors, of course. It's easy to just swallow that their brand of pushing is good using innocuous ideas like saving for retirement "best" (which can easily be decided by "most amount of money gained by retirement"), but the idea that a couple of smug guys deciding what is "best" in a variety of any social issues just annoyed the crap out of me. ( )
  suzemo | Mar 31, 2013 |
This book is not what I thought it would be.

I somehow thought it would be about how to improve decision *making* for, say, yourself (which would impact things like Health, Wealth, and Happiness), but it was about choice architecture and how to frame choices to make people choose what you think they should choose.

Which might have been interesting if that's what the book covered. There was a little bit about "choice architecture" in the beginning, but nothing that extended further than common sense. They then left discussion of choice architecture to focus on what the authors' thought should be the solution to problems like losing weight, medicare/health plans, marriage equality (same sex marriage) and retirement accounts (to focus on a few).

And then there was lots of discussion about how they are libertarian paternalists, which really stuck in my craw. It basically came down to: how they would try to push ("nudge") people into choosing what is "best." Best being completely subjective at the discretion of the authors, of course. It's easy to just swallow that their brand of pushing is good using innocuous ideas like saving for retirement "best" (which can easily be decided by "most amount of money gained by retirement"), but the idea that a couple of smug guys deciding what is "best" in a variety of any social issues just annoyed the crap out of me. ( )
  suzemo | Mar 31, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 29 (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.
 

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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Richard H. Thalerprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Sunstein, Cass R.main authorall editionsconfirmed
Sunstein, Cass R.main authorall 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 Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:20:37 -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.

(summary from another edition)

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