Behavioural science, or nudges, has had a decade in the spotlight, and it is only just getting started. Policymakers have the potential to use nudges to make us all healthier, wealthier and happier.
A nudge is different to regulation, laws, taxes, or marketing
Nudging is something that can influence behaviour without forcing anyone’s hand. A choice that alters people’s behaviour in a predictable way without forbidding any options or significantly changing their economic incentives. For example, a sugar ban or a price reduction isn’t a nudge, but a change in the environment is.
Other examples of nudges include improving the eating habits of citizens, changing the practices of cane growers, and improving the quality of the water flowing into the sea.
The most successful nudges have worked in countries where residents already have high trust in the government.
The first government to establish a behavioural insights team (BIT) was Britain in 2010. With small tweaks like changing the messaging on a government website, form or letter, the team has encouraged an additional 100,0000 people to sign up as organ donors, doubled the number of applicants to the British Army, and accelerated tax receipts by over £200 million ($261 million).
Now, more than 200 public entities worldwide apply behavioural insights.
How to create a nudge
- Identify the ultimate goal of your nudge, whether it is to discourage a rule-breaker or encourage a buy-in by using rewards or financial incentives. Decide how you will measure the outcome.
- Consider the context. How will users respond to the nudge? Visit the situations and people involved in the behaviour, and understand the context from their perspective.
- Choose your nudge. Use the EAST framework to help you.
- Create more than one nudge by creating several varied and related messages.
- Then test them against each other with a randomized controlled trial (RCT), to see which is most effective.
- Use the learnings to make a policy decision.
Read more about how nudges are being used to change the behaviour of large groups of people.