What if the choices you make serve society’s and your best interests? And what if our environment more or less implicitly steers our choices to achieve this? That is what nudging is all about. Nudges alter the environment and ways in which we make choices about our daily life. Nudges are not about prohibiting certain choices, but about subtly changing the way we assess the choices at our disposal to ultimately make decisions that are in line with our own values and beliefs, and maybe even society’s best interests. As such, nudges are a small push in the right direction. But what is the right direction anyway?
The classic image of a perfectly autonomous and free person making purely rational and therefore economically optimal choices has long been abandoned by policy makers and think tanks worldwide. People make economically suboptimal choices all the time, for example concerning our health and the environment. And we’re good at it too. If the homo economicus is no longer the dominant frame in policy making, the question is what views of behavior, choice and free will have replaced it. To discover this we zoom in on the phenomenon of nudging in this blogpost. Whilst we witness the upswing of the so called governmental Nudge Units globally, we ask ourselves what nudging is actually all about? What do these nudge units do? In what ways do their nudges (aim to) influence our behavior? And if nudges guide us towards socially desirable behavior, what does socially desirable mean? Who determines this? And how far can the government go to stimulate it?