The book “Nudge” was introduced to me during one of the classes on contemporary issues in PR and attracted my attention almost immediately: partly because the theory sounded interesting, partly because one of the references on the back cover was Steven D. Levitt, author of my favorite “Freakonomics”. I should confess: I did not enjoy reading “Nudge” as much as other books in this section: examples were quite complicated and style was quite boring. However, I don’t regret about time spent with it as now I know a little more about choice’s architecture and how small changes in order or placement can persuade our behaviors and choices.
The idea, explored by authors of the nudge theory, is quite original: they prove that the order of options given in blank, the size of the plate in which the food served, the placement of signs on our way or the form of the question – negative or positive – all can influence our decisions. They base the theory on behavioral psychology findings and provide convincing examples when nudges work. The point is that everybody makes hundreds of decisions each day. And in majority of choice cases we need to compare the options in fields we are not experts or do not have enough experience. So some outer influences – the nudges – can change our opinion and show the way to behave.
The potential of implementation of nudge theory is great – from solving the ecological problems to improving finance situation for many individuals and providing more people with right medical treatment. One of the most impressive cases, discussed in the book, was the statistics about donation of organs after death in different countries. While the cultures and economic development of some countries were very similar, the rates of organs’ donations differed in few times. The reason for this gap was simple: while some governments stated in blanks “Tick the box if you want to donate your organs after death”, the others asked “Tick the box if you do NOT want to donate”. Guess which case was more effective? The latter proved higher donation rates, applying to the common trait of human nature – laziness to make choices and readiness to accept default option.
The nudge theory may make us feel less confident about our own ability to take decisions or provoke the anger cause we don’t really believe that order of lines in the blank can influence our opinion. However, this trick works for the majority of people, Thaler and Sunstein believe, and as communication professionals, we just need to accept it and see how we can use this knowledge in our practice.
“The false assumption is that almost all people, almost all of the time, make choices that are in their best interest or at the very least are better than the choices that would be made by someone else.” ― Thaler & Sustein, “