A nudge in behavioral economics stands for a measure that ought to help people make “better” decisions without them really noticing. For example when people stick to a default option without much thinking: not saving for retirement by default results in lower savings than when the default is saving for retirement (Thaler and Sunstein, 2008).
There are some potentially ethical complications to ‘nudging’. Is it ethical to influence people their decisions without them being aware of that? What is often overlooked there is that any policy that requires people to make a decision somehow contains a ‘nudge’, one way or another. That we are more aware today of the influence of the design and presentation of policies, does not mean that (flawed) designs before had no impact. In other words, you always influence people; ‘nudging’ is the situation in which you as a policymaker consciously deal with this inevitability.
- Thaler, Richard H.; Sunstein, Cass R.(2008). Nudge: Improving Decisions about Health, Wealth, and Happiness. Yale University Press. ISBN 978-0-14-311526-7.OCLC 791403664.
- A note on the ethics of nudges | VOX, CEPR’s Policy Portal