Nudge: Improving decisions about health, wealth and happiness

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Nudge: Improving decisions about health, wealth and happiness

How influential do you think you are? And how easily persuaded do you think you or others can be when it comes to important decisions?

The answers can be found in Thaler and Sunstein’s high profile book – Nudge – used by David Cameron’s team and a growing number of private businesses, which outlines the often invisible, but huge influences that come into play when people make decisions.

The bottom line is that people are nudge-able. Their choices, even in life’s most important decisions, are influenced in ways that would not be anticipated in a standard economic framework. – Thaler & Sunstein

If you set the policy or design the form new employees fill in to join the company’s retirement plan, if you are a doctor and describe alternative treatments to a patient, if you are a parent describing educational options to your children, or if you are in sales – you are a choice architect.

As the professors show, no choice can ever really be presented to us in an entirely neutral way, and is influenced by many factors. By understanding better how people behave, and how fallible humans can be, we can make it easier for people to choose what is best for them, and society.

Without wanting to restrict our freedom of choice, the authors demonstrate through extensive research and examples, how it is possible to nudge us, or others, in the right direction.

Thaler and Sunstein believe that organisations have an important role to play in the choices they help employees make – particularly in the areas of healthcare, retirement plans and the environment.

In an accessible style, the authors cover many interesting ideas including:

The authors propose ideas for improving people’s lives in many other ways – from money and investments, to organ donations and marriage.

In their post-script to the book, added following the financial crisis, they highlight how human failings helped lead to the failure of sub-prime mortgages. Perhaps a little more sensible nudging, alongside other measures, might help us avoid the next bubble….

About the authors

Richard H. Thaler is Professor of Behavioural Science and Economics, and Director of the Centre for Decision Research, Graduate School of Business, at the University of Chicago. He is also research associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research.

Cass R. Sunstein is Distinguished Service Professor of Jurisprudence, University of Chicago Law School and Department of Political Science.


All the rage … the issue is not “to nudge or not to nudge”; it is how to nudge well –  Matthew Taylor, Daily Telegraph

Hugely influential …. choice architects are everywhere – Andrew Sparrow, Guardian

Book Details

Author: Richard H. Thaler and Cass R. Sunstein

ISBN: 0141040017