There are much better books on this topic - some of which Nudge refers to early on. Being written by two Univ of Chicago profs, it is obsessed with libertarian arguments against paternalism, leading to some convoluted reasoning to avoid some proven means of addressing of market failures. Much of the book is geared exclusively to a US audience, and you can pretty much skip the last half of the book. Some of the information is now surprisingly dated, as well.
This book is filled with useful information about how to help persuade and 'nudge' people. But the book is not as readable as other titles in the field ('Switch' springs to mind, as does 'Influencer'). This is Quaker Oatmeal, filling but not tasty, good for you, but not fun. Nothing wrong with it, but don't expect to breeze through on an afternoon.
"Blink." "Sway." "Flip." Such snappy, one-word titles purport to reveal the hidden dimensions of human behaviour by both informing and entertaining the reader. "Nudge" certainly falls into this genre but it goes a step further, making a strong case for more enlightened social and economic policies.
We see ourselves as rational creatures, Cass Sunstein and Richard Thaler point out, but four decades of research show that our choices tend towards the unrealistically optimistic, the status quo and thoughtless conformity. Citing what they call "the emerging science of choice," the authors contend that the framing and presentation of public choices determines the decisions we make: we eat more from large plates, care twice as much about losing money as gaining it and agonize about rare events like plane crashes instead of common ones like auto accidents.
"Choice architecture" can thus guide, or "nudge," people toward making better choices. A nudge, Sunstein and Thaler write, "alters people's behavior in a predictable way without forbidding any options or significantly changing their economic incentives...Nudges are not mandates. Putting the fruit at eye level counts as a nudge. Banning junk food does not." The authors dedicate much of the book to practical examples of nudges, detailing how to take advantage of people's tendency to expend a minimum of effort and how to make use of subtle social influences. Many of these examples both persuade and entertain; they describe, for instance, how etching a small black fly in a urinal gives men something to aim at, thus reducing reducing spillage by 80 percent.
Sunstein and Thaler then sway towards the political, an important and worthwhile move but one that becomes tedious and repetitive as the book progresses. They acknowledge that some might see nudges as an infringement on their liberties but, ultimately, they assert, context-free choice does not exist. An approach that both preserves freedom of choice and guides people to make educated, thoughtful decisions could allow people to make their lives healthier, happier and longer. The deliberate oxymoron, "libertarian paternalism," which in itself will cause some eyes to glaze over, describes this philosophy. "Private and public choice architects are not merely trying to track or to implement people’s anticipated choices," the authors conclude. "Rather, they are self-consciously attempting to move people in directions that will make their lives better. They nudge."
The thesis of this book was fairly thoroughly addressed in the first few chapters; the rest of it was reiteration using different examples.
Yes, it is interesting, but maybe I'm jaded because we learned this in business school marketing and management classes.
There are many factors that influence our decisions without even our realizing it. In this book, Thaler and Sunstein analyze the decision-making process, the human tendencies that impede the process, the factors that influence them and ways to help people make better decisions. It's a fairly simple concept that is well demonstrated through concrete examples and applications. The injection of humour makes this rather dry material quite palatable.
For me, the theory was much more interesting than the practice and it was easy for me to relate to the various situations presented. I do not agree with their idea of privatizing marriage - their paradigms are limited to their construction, although I'm sure that presented with different arguments, the theory would uphold. Very American-centric, but interesting nonetheless.
Great exercise on the science of individual and social persuasion.
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