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Study notes

Nudges (Behavioural Economics)

  • Levels: AS, A Level, IB
  • Exam boards: AQA, Edexcel, OCR, IB, Eduqas, WJEC

A nudge is a technique used by choice architects in order to change someone’s behaviour in a very easy and low-cost way, without reducing the number of choices available. We often see it described as “non-enforced compliance”.

Choice architects and policy makers aim to change people’s behaviour and alter their decisions more effectively using a nudge rather than relying on fresh pieces of legislation or direct enforcement. It has been described as “libertarian paternalism”.

Nudge theory is generally used to describe situations where nudges are used to improve the life and wellbeing of people and society.

President Obama established the White House Social and Behavioural Sciences Team and the UK government has the Behavioural Insights Team (BIT) – these make active use of nudge theory to improve social outcomes.

Here are two short videos featuring Dr David Halpern from the Behavioural Insights Team discussing nudges and (in the second example) how they might be used to tackle the growing problem of childhood obesity.

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