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

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

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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3,280613,307 (3.5)42
Thaler and Sunstein offer a groundbreaking discussion of how to apply the science of choice to nudge people toward decisions that can improve their lives without restricting their freedom of choice.
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    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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» See also 42 mentions

English (56)  French (1)  Spanish (1)  German (1)  Romanian (1)  All languages (60)
Showing 1-5 of 56 (next | show all)
The short version: Humans have cognitive biases that affect their decision making. Using what we know about these biases, we can design choice architectures that make it easy for people to make good choices without taking the freedom to choose away from those who want to do so. Thaler and Sunstein describe these principles and give examples of how they can be applied to saving money, health care, and preserving freedoms.

Nudge acknowledges both the failures of one-size-fits-all government solutions and why cognitive biases cause the market to fail as a mechanism for providing social good.

Details on the later since the former seems more obvious to me. The purpose of the market is to maximize profit. Ideally, this goal lines up with the goals of general social good. This is often the case because competition allows people to go with the solution that best meets their goals.

However, cognitive biases can throw a wrench in this system. Advertising is the most obvious way. The whole purpose of marketing departments is to figure out how to provide information in a way that takes advantage of cognitive biases.

Things still work out for the most part for choices that are frequent and give good feedback. No amount of marketing is going to make people like a bad candy bar. This is less true for decisions that are rare or have no feedback (e.g., health care, marriage, retirement investing, buying a house). Good decisions are hard because information is lacking, feedback is slow, and educating yourself can be difficult and confusing.

The authors suggest, and I agree, that a fruitful compromise is to use nudges. A choice architecture structured around nudges allows users to make choices but ensure that the easy decision is good enough for most users*.

An example: Many companies provide 401k plans with automatic enrollment. Getting out of these plans is easy enough, and this nudge has greatly increased 401k plan enrollment. Wonderful! The market is working all on its own**. But we can still make things better. When automatic enrollment is used, some default investment must be chosen. The default is often overly conservative because companies do not want to be liable for losses. Employees will often stay with this plan, even if they increase their contribution, because they assume the default choice is a good choice. A useful nudge here would be for the government to give best practices guidelines that suggest better investments and remove liability for losses for defaults which follow those guidelines.

That is just one example. The point is that by changing the choice architecture, we can create decisions that allow for choice while still making it easy to make a decision that is good enough. These nudges may come from the government or from the market, but both are necessary because they both have their own strengths and weaknesses.

* Yes, nudges could be used for bad as well as for good and you have to trust those making the choice architecture to make the nudged decision a good one without making alternatives too difficult. Given that, I still think nudges are better than one-size-fits-all solutions. I also believe that we already have nudges used for (sometimes) bad; it is called marketing. We may as well give the same tools to those who would use them to get rid of one-size-fits-all solutions.

** Not strictly true. There are laws that incentive companies to offer 401k plans, but we will ignore those for now. ( )
  eri_kars | Jul 10, 2022 |
Addresses psychology, cognitive flaws and biases and behavioral economics, but the recommendations are more skewed toward social science and government/public policy (issues like pension schemes, climate change, organ donation etc.) You'll learn:
• Key behavioral economics principles to understand why people behave the way they do. Find out about our 2 cognitive systems, common mental heuristics or biases, and why we make bad decisions;
• How you can help people to make better decisions yet retain freedom of choice using the Libertarian Paternalism approach;
• What “choice architecture” involves, when you should use nudges, and the tools you can use to design effective nudges;
• How sludge can create the opposite outcomes as nudges, and why/how to de-sludge; and
• Detailed real-world case studies to understand how nudges can be applied to address various challenges/goals including financial well-being (including retirement savings, debt management and insurance) and national/global issues (e.g. organ donation and climate change).

Book summary at: https://readingraphics.com/book-summary-nudge-improving-decisions-about-health-w... ( )
1 vote AngelaLamHF | Jul 6, 2022 |
So much good advice. I really must implement the "insurance deductible account" idea. ( )
  Jerry.Yoakum | Jun 5, 2022 |
my first DNF for the year...

i'm disappointed with myself...for a long time i was looking forward to reading this book, only to get so bogged down i had to finally give up a few pages short of the half-way point.

the first 5 chapters were really good. scholarly, but entertaining. then followed chapters of case studies that leaned more on the sides of economics and governance rather done on psychology and personal development...and i just struggled. i'm really interested in this topic, too...so maybe i'm just not really in the mood.

plus, the book was very targeted to an american audience. not a bad thing since the lessons can be generalized. but when i have to do that mental adjustment every chapter...when my focus is already running away from me...

maybe i'll pick it up again sometime
  riida | Mar 5, 2022 |

To improve our decision making, people need nudges. Nudges are simple decisions we make that make the decisions we make better. This involves using good choice architecture. I like this phrase.

However, I don't really like the book. The book started enough solidly but for me ran out of steam. I love the concept and actually subscribe to their website. The web articles are simpler and more salient.

So, I would probably nudge you to the website instead. ( )
  wellington299 | Feb 19, 2022 |
Showing 1-5 of 56 (next | show all)
But regardless of whether Thaler and Sunstein’s ideas are ideologically neutral, most of them are the essence of common sense.
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 editionscalculated
Sunstein, Cass R.main authorall editionsconfirmed
Sunstein, Cass R.main 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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A friend of ours, Carolyn, is the director of food services for a large city school system.
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