Would you rather live in an overt nanny state or with covert manipulation?
Chances are, you’re likely to have been nudged towards a certain decision at some point. You probably didn’t notice. That’s deliberate: nudging is widely assumed to work best when people aren’t aware of it. But that stealth breeds suspicion: people recoil from the idea that they are being stealthily manipulated.
Behavioural economics is the “science of choice” using choice architecture, (the way in which options are presented) with the objective of exploiting your biases.
Supermarkets are experts at this, greeting you with the smell of freshly baked bread and tempting you with chocolate next to the checkout queue. The intention is that you will cave in to temptation and buy things you didn’t intend to.
Now government is using the same philosophy to gently guide the masses to make it’s choices, see article in New Scientist this week. Whether it’s outcome is good governance or malevolent manipulation depends holy on who you put your trust in. Cass Sunstein wrote Nudge, published in 2008 about how behavioural science is transforming government. It’s a problem centred approach rather than a theory centred approach using rational choice theory. Interventions designed to change behaviour without the person being aware of it.
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