Nudge nudge wink wink: more criticism

Posted by on Feb 1, 2011 in behaviour change, Books, nudge | 3 Comments


Pic c/o etsy

Another week, another HMGovernment policy paper awash with nudging and nudges [HT Bob Pickett]

Nice piece here which highlights some important criticisms of Nudge and nudging [raised in this BMJ article] by a number of leading academic authorities on health-related behaviour change (including Prof Theresa Marteau, whom I had the good fortune to meet last year).

Here’s the first para of the the BMJ piece’s conclusions:

Nudge and similar recent popular texts have stimulated policymakers to think about altering environments to change behaviour. These developments are to be welcomed. Evidence to support the effectiveness of nudging as a means to improve population health and reduce health inequalities is, however, weak. This reflects absence of evidence as well as evidence of little or no effect…” [my italics]

Part of the reason cited in the BMJ for the weakness of nudging as a frame for behaviour change tool is the fact [as suggested here previously] that largely ignores the social world in which we live  and insists on considering individual behaviour as the appropriate level of granulation to think about human behaviour (the other big argument here is that the light-touch interventions that nudge tends to favour tend to skip around doing the politically difficult and often unpopular context-changing things like introducing smoking bans yet at the same time ignoring the competitive nudges e.g. what beer marketers use to steal the virtuous away…)

And – so you don’t go away with the impression that this is the scientific equivalent of a local neighbourhood quarrel – the interview rightly highlights the underlying attraction of  cheap and the simple fixes, which much nudging seems to offer policy makers 

 “This is why this idea has caught on, because it’s selling a very attractive [cheap and easy] proposition…It’s a political philosophy rather than behavioral science”

Political philosophy rather than behavioral science, indeed.


  1. john burke
    February 1, 2011

    this is great stuff, tx Mark

  2. Daryl Travis
    June 6, 2011

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    I am the founder of Chicago based Brandtrust, a research and strategy consultancy, rooted in social science beliefs and methods. We advise many top brands, I think because we’ve consistently demonstrated an ability to deliver deeper richer insights into why their customers do what they do.
    The research side of what we do is amazing. The strategy side should be as good. I’d love to compare notes with you on the Bentley inspired analytic tools and explore how we might work together.
    You can reach me at 312.440.1833 x214 or, of course, via email.
    Looking forward to chatting.
    Daryl Travis

  3. Macy Shearin
    January 6, 2012

    Macy Shearin

    Say, you got a nice blog article.Thanks Again. Cool.