What is nudging?

A child is standing in front of the school on the first day of school and does not dare go in – the mother pushes the child together with the school bag easily and without threatening or scolding, towards the entrance door. It’s nudging.

A call to action. Nudging literally means “to push”.

This concept of “easy push-start” goes back to the economist Richard Thaler, who published the book “Nudge” together with the jurist Cass Sunstein in 2008. It explains how policymakers can use findings from modern behavioural research to encourage citizens to behave better.

The state could encourage its citizens to behave “well” – comparable to the mother before school. This is particularly true for situations where the consequences are still far off in the future – for example, more environmentally conscious behaviour.

Here, nudging can be a stimulus for homeowners to insulate their attic or for city dwellers to leave the car and use the bike instead.

According to Thaler and Sunstein, nudges are supposed to encourage people to make better decisions – for example to stop smoking or to stay slim and healthy.

Through the Internet, these incentives for desired behaviour, nudging, could reach a large number of people within a short time.

Nudging has come in for criticism because it could be misused as manipulation. The most prominent negative example is that people could be manipulated in terms of their vote.

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