Top 10 Nudges

By May 10, 2012Business

Probably everyone has read Thaler and Sunstein’s book Nudge by now. Their thesis is simple: we are overwhelmed and often paralysed by choice, and public policy should do more to ‘nudge’ us in the direction of better choices where possible. Influencing ‘choice architecture’ doesn’t remove our free-will, but it makes it easier for us to choose a better path, like opting out of organ donation, rather than in. The Cabinet Office now has a ‘Nudge Unit‘, and I am very keen on this route as a subtle and more effective way to improve the market, rather than just coming up with more red tape. Here are my favourite Top 10 Nudges, some because they are admirable, and some just because they are so clever.

  1. Free peanuts on the bar: uses salt to boost beer sales
  2. ‘Rinse. And Repeat’: doubles shampoo sales
  3. Mirrors in lifts: uses vanity to reduce graffiti
  4. 17 mph speed limit: makes drivers focus harder on their speed
  5. Ubiquitous alcohol gel in hospitals: has reduced MRSA by 40% in a year
  6. UCLA’s crowdsourcing games: uses hobby time to help diagnose malaria in Africa
  7. Planting trees in housing estates: reduces property and violent crime
  8. Paying benefits weekly rather than monthly: helps with household budgeting and to avoid loan sharks
  9. The Archers: written to encourage farmers to try new techniques as a productivity drive after WWII
  10. God (when state-sponsored): belief correlates with better levels of adherence to the law.

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