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Do we all need a nudge?

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Mark Easton | 11:49 UK time, Monday, 23 June 2008

A new book out in Britain this week, entitled Nudge, suggests we need to get smarter at using psychology to change our behaviour for the better. Instead of councils snooping on pet-owners who let their dogs foul the park, nudge them into changing their behaviour.

CCTV cameraThis morning on the Today programme I heard a representative of electronics giant Siemens UK arguing that it wasn't new technology that was needed to cut carbon emissions - just for people to start using what already exists.

The nudge answer might be pointing out to people when their energy consumption goes above the average for their street - you can now get a gizmo that gently lets you know. Just a nudge.

And later today, the prime minister will say that the answer to improving social mobility is "people themselves adopting the work ethic, the learning ethic and aiming high." In other words, it's not down to government or new laws. We need to find a way of "nudging" people into doing the right things to help their children succeed.

The theory is that people tend to behave the way they imagine others behave - the "social norm". So, if you think people like you go to the gym, always pick up their dog poo, refuse their kids junk food but tend to overdo it on the Sauvignon, chances are you will do the same.

Politicians, inevitably, are keen on this stuff. They want to make us behave differently but laws often don't work or see them accused of running a nanny state.

The new book on the subject is written by two American academics, Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein, who have "informally" advised Barack Obama on nudging apparently. Not quite sure what that means, but the theories are flavour of the month in British politics too.

Former No 10 advisor Matthew Taylor has written extensively on the subject. David Cameron is known to be a believer.

Perhaps the most famous example of a "nudge" is at Schiphol Airport in Holland. Managers were fed up with the state of the gents. Men were none too accurate in their aim. Warnings and signs did no good so designers tried a "nudge".

UrinalA black fly was etched into the porcelain of each urinal - something to aim at. Spillages were reduced 80%.

Can we do better here? And not just in the gents.

I am looking for some UK-born nudges - ideas to make us behave better without the use of threats or sanctions. The most brilliant will be posted here soon. Nudge, nudge. Pass it on.

Comments

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  • 1. At 12:20pm on 23 Jun 2008, John Roberts wrote:

    An effective but little known nudge is to remove white lines from residential streets. The lack of a reference for the centre of the road or edges slows traffic right down.

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  • 2. At 12:30pm on 23 Jun 2008, tedyeoman wrote:

    One neat Nudge .. get TV drama to represent behaviour slightly above what is currently acceptable not slightly below it.

    Greed is not "good" it is only "OK".
    Using "Naffing" instead of the "F-word".
    Only having sex in a stable environment rather than with everyone.
    Regulars in the Queen Vic / Rovers spilling drink down their clothes on the 3rd round.
    Having polite people succeeding sometimes.
    Presenters who speak properly with an accent rather than shouting in street slang

    Slightly aspriational TV a National Nudge

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  • 3. At 12:34pm on 23 Jun 2008, stanilic wrote:

    Once upon a time there was a generally accepted standard of behaviour in this country which was that the individual was allowed to mind their own business so long as they did not annoy others and frighten the horses.

    The politicians and the state decided a long time ago to change all that and so the entire culture of public supervision, often linked to the provision of poor quality services, was allowed to develop. So the individual was chivvied and taxed into all sorts of alien behaviour to the point of helplessness.

    Now alienated and totally anomic the unfortunate individual is to be `nudged' back into the patterns of behaviour which prevailed for centuries before the state intervened.

    The only difference is that the individual is now morally, financially and intellectually bankrupt. The individual is not the problem: the state and its busybodies are the problem.

    Wink, wink, nudge, nudge: say no more, say no more!

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  • 4. At 12:40pm on 23 Jun 2008, Mr Cheers wrote:

    Public bins which are used frequently (including those outside of establishments such as fast food restaurants) should be designed and modified to contain separate sections for plastic, paper and possibly tin cans. This should encourage more people to recycle at home. I've never understood the concept of trying to encourage people to recycle at home only to make them throw all of their rubbish in to the same bin whilst openly in public in a town or city centre.

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  • 5. At 12:42pm on 23 Jun 2008, lordSuperpie wrote:

    How about paying a brigade of old dears to wander the countryside smiling?

    If that worked, hell, where do I sign?

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  • 6. At 12:50pm on 23 Jun 2008, mrjackdaw wrote:

    A nudge?

    Hmmm...

    How could a nudge raise a childs aspiration - ah! It all ready does!

    The number of children I meet with no plan for the future except football and big brother is amazing. What we need are role models in other spheres - engineers, scientists, business leaders etc. And the media needs to be behind them!

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  • 7. At 12:54pm on 23 Jun 2008, dipseyshat wrote:

    For me, you can do a lot in terms of how you yourself behave - in other words, give a nudge by role-modelling the behaviour you want to see.

    Be polite and courteous to children and young people - treat them as you would any other human being, rather than as a nuisance. Not only will you be a rare exception in their experience but hopefully you will be modelling the kinds of behaviour we want them to demonstrate.

    If someone drops litter in the street, pick it up and give it back to them, noting that they seem to have dropped something. They usually get the nudge and look for a bin. I'll be honest, I do carefully pick who I try this on though...

    And I agree with tedyeoman's comment - I'd also add not having people 'win' by cheating/ lying (yes, him-from-The-Apprentice, I do mean you and others like you)

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  • 8. At 12:59pm on 23 Jun 2008, Richard1634 wrote:

    "Public bins which are used frequently (including those outside of establishments such as fast food restaurants) should be designed and modified to contain separate sections for plastic, paper and possibly tin cans"

    This is what they do in Japan and it works really well.

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  • 9. At 1:03pm on 23 Jun 2008, mrshields2u wrote:

    Spot on comment #2.

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  • 10. At 1:05pm on 23 Jun 2008, Paulc2 wrote:

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the House Rules.

  • 11. At 1:15pm on 23 Jun 2008, Swale wrote:

    role modelling is key...

    here we have national authority figures settling disputes using violence (Iraq, Afghanistan etc), and then wondering why, when young people grow up watching all of this, we are becoming increasingly violent as a society? It's a bit like parents insisting that their kids don't hit each other when arguing, whilst they shout at, shame and push each other around....the sort of nudges we can do without, thanks!

    time to wake up and smell the coffee as they say...

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  • 12. At 1:20pm on 23 Jun 2008, FatPeace - A Promise to Heather wrote:

    gcheers (#4) - 'twin bins' with separate sections for cans / bottles and other waste were an initial success in Leeds where they were trialled, but three years on most are missing the flaps which stated which section is which and most just end up with both sides stuffed full of takeaway detritus. When the bins were initially rolled out, they were extremely prolific; as time has passed, many have been removed or destroyed, and the change of emphasis from carrot to stick is evidence in the large yellow '£75 FINE' stickers now attached to the survivors.

    Rather than 'nudging' us one way or the other, perhaps the powers-that be should instead reassess the degree to which they concern themselves with the individual's lifestyle. I have watched this trend - particularly with reference to the realm of 'public health'- with growing trepidation over the last decade or so, during which time the emphasis has shifted from preventing one's actions harming others (through passive smoking, drunken disorder etc) to deciding that the individual is no longer capable of taking a calculated risk to drink / smoke more than they should, or eat certain things deemed 'unhealthy, often on the back of disputed science.

    When draconian sanctions are proposed (such as Japan's extreme 'solution' of outlawing men with waists over 33", backed up by the threat of a fine) I wonder who exactly is meant to benefit from these schemes. Unlike the mushrooming public health establishment and numerous quangoes (normally with 'Concern' appended to some supposedly dire public health 'timebomb') I dispute that you can punish people 'for their own good'. Certainly, 'nudging' is preferable to denying smokers NHS treatment, or limiting the so-called obese to certain restaurants and supermarket aisles (as was recently proposed in Mississippi). However to my mind, all such interventions in people's personal decisions risk dramatically redefining the relationship between the individual and State.

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  • 13. At 1:22pm on 23 Jun 2008, NMStoker wrote:

    Giving people a nudge on the Tube may work, but more so now it falls on deaf ears - intentionally deaf ears: most people are listening to mp3 players and such like and it's generally the more distracted people who are most in need of a nudge...

    Thus one of the unintended benefits of up-coming moves to improve the Tube for the disabled may be that it also provides more prompts for the optionally deaf as well as those with a disability.

    [just in case there is any accidental offense, I mean this in a non-offensive way to any one affected by deafness/disability!]

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  • 14. At 1:32pm on 23 Jun 2008, gratex wrote:

    If politicians wish to nudge, then perhaps us moral, dignified civilians should be nudging them into the "proper" way of being.

    I don't like politicians telling me to "do the right thing" because I know they can't do it themselves, and that they have a different definition of "right".

    So now we'll all be nudged into doing the "right" thing which will look something like Thatcherite Britain, a dog-eat-dog hell, labelled as individualism but ends up the most insidious of collective efforts to suppress creativity, flair and individualism.

    Someone nudge me into being positive about this, without resorting to nudging anti-depressants down my throat, please!

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  • 15. At 1:49pm on 23 Jun 2008, dav_lufc wrote:

    Tedyeoman Comment #2 -
    I agree that The Apprentice, Top Gear and Eastenders encourage "unacceptable" behaviour (whatever that is) but if the BBC axes these it won't have any viewers will it?

    While I don't like these shows, you can't just ban them, what about free speech?

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  • 16. At 1:53pm on 23 Jun 2008, Woundedpride wrote:

    #13, It's a sign of the times that you feel you have to add your last line. I'm profoundly deaf and not in the least offended - in fact, it puts me in mind of another 'nudge'.

    Many people who are hard of hearing benefit from the use of induction loops in public places, but all too often the staff there don't know how to turn the thing on. A good nudge would be to put the switch to turn on the induction loop at a customer window on the customer's side. Better service, less embarrassment, more use of the thing the company/government paid all that money to install in the first place.

    By the way, have a look at the terrific site for 'nudge' ideas at http://www.whynot.net/ - it's a website from Ian Ayres and Barry Nalebuff and their great little book Why Not? How to Use Everyday Ingenuity to Solve Problems Big and Small.

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  • 17. At 2:03pm on 23 Jun 2008, SirSinistral wrote:

    In an age characterised by euphemism, relentless marketing and 'spin' (itself a euphemism for lying) 'nudge' is simply a covert method of social engineering. Rather than engage with citizens honestly, using genuine information in a real search for shared solutions to real problems, we have manipulative government and business, competing to covertly influence our behaviour to satisfy their own agendas, usually about making money out of us all to benefit themselves. I need 'nudge' like I need a hole in the head.

    This is also another example of UK leaders buying into whatever packaged drivel emanates from the USA, despite the fact that the US is a failure as a nation, as a community and as an example, by pretty much any criteria you care to examine.

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  • 18. At 2:12pm on 23 Jun 2008, Jim Hewitt wrote:

    At the office, we wanted to encourage social events as a way of team building. At the same time, there was only a small company budget for such events.

    This proved extremely difficult -- to find events that interest enough people, at a convenient time, at the right price, at a convenient place, etc. There is no one answer that makes everybody happy.

    We provided a nudge with a DIY policy for social events. Now, anyone who organises an event involving 10 or more employees can get a £5 per person subsidy.

    The key to success was having no rules other than the 10-employee threshold. The event can literally be anything -- even a group smoke break. The organiser can use the money however he likes (no receipts required) -- even keep it all to himself.

    We worried lots of ways this system might be abused. Instead, lots of people are organising events (curry nights, 10-pin bowling, etc.), but few are actually claiming the subsidy.

    The net cost is far lower, and participation much broader, than we've ever gotten with traditional 'company sponsored' events.

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  • 19. At 2:15pm on 23 Jun 2008, Londonkeeptalking wrote:

    Better than picking up litter and giving it back to the litterbug, try and get your "five a day" by picking up five pieces of litter and putting it in a bin nearby. If lots of us did that we would quickly tidy up London.

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  • 20. At 2:17pm on 23 Jun 2008, danzarak wrote:

    For me, the key word here is responsibility...

    You can't make someone take responsibility for something, without them feeling some kind of connection or ownership for it.

    People don't feel connected to or responsible for something which they don't feel part of.

    People don't feel part of something while their views and opinions are ignored.

    To this end, I think the only way you can make people care about their actions in relation to the country, their city, everthing... is to make them part of it. This is where democracy is supposed to come in... involving you in the process miraculously makes you care.

    No wonder most people don't.

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  • 21. At 2:24pm on 23 Jun 2008, ATNotts wrote:

    #4 and 12 - it's a great idea, but hardly original. In many European countries, usually the "tidier ones" such as Germany, Austria and Switzerland these bins exist widely, not only in cities but also in rural areas and beauty spots.

    I just worry that the anglo-saxon tendency to drop litter, in full knowledge that someone will come and pick it up for them (not) would mean that these bins would largely become abused, and like much other civic furniture, vandalised.

    Why do I feel so pesemistic about this? I don't know, other than "keep Britain tidy" messages never seemed to work in the past.

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  • 22. At 2:45pm on 23 Jun 2008, Tall-Poppy wrote:

    Personally, I wouldn't advise trying any nudging in London... I once attempted this on a Tube that was filling up - tried to nudge a fellow passenger to move the bag he had placed on the seat beside him so that I and others could sit down. Spent the rest of the Tube journey regretting it as he and his foul-mouthed mates made rude and aggressive comments about me...

    Maybe best left to the police then, or others with back-up who can face up to the bullies!

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  • 23. At 2:46pm on 23 Jun 2008, alichatter wrote:

    Being proud of my independence of both thought and deed, I cringed at the concept of nudging. Perhaps I did so as a tacit acknowledgement that this form of social control (now I’m really wincing) is both necessary and acceptable and therefore workable.
    I cringe because the mere phrase itself “social control” like the concept of “nudging” has implications for my sense of being too abhorrent to contemplate. It stirs and anger inside me and builds the “us and them wall” in my mind in the blink of an eye. We are sheep, pawns, call us what you will and to a greater or lesser extent need herding.
    This said nudging has a much preferred quality, it allows the nudge the final decision and for that reason it has merit. Managed properly such systems might provide some reward for towing the social line.
    Our education system has seen such a change. The days of absolute control are certainly in the past. Pupils are pulled more than pushed, coerced and encouraged rather than directed and controlled. By and large it works. Our children are certainly taught better regardless of what some may think about the loss of discipline and it’s on going effects.
    In industry we have seen much the same change. Employees are invited to participate and encouraged to buy in to the direction of the business. We are more productive and relations more harmonious as a result.
    The common denominator here is of course vested interest. The nudged are rewarded, there are carrots by way of qualifications and bonuses. Behavioural change is rewarded.
    There are many and in some cases, urgent challenges, to be faced by society and inevitably governments will take the lead in meeting the lion’s share of these. Global poverty, climate change, soaring fuel and food prices, possible recession, the pensions gap, immigration etc... For a government to succeed in these areas it must become an artful nudger. It will need to determine and communicate a clear and workable solution but it’s the nudged who will ultimately provide them with success or failure for it is they who will decide if change is tolerable. Incentives will prove key to this success and the artful nudger will find it through providing these in a timely, effective and well communicated fashion.

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  • 24. At 2:57pm on 23 Jun 2008, MuerteAndante wrote:

    #15, I do not think #2 was asking for the programs to be removed, but to be modified in some way.

    It is no good getting the children's channels trying to ram morals down our children's throats (some American imports and American style programs in CBeeBies are a real nightmare for doing this) and then when they watch something like Corrie they discover these people to whom a lot of calamities happen and some of whom can get away with murder (literally). It is totally unrealistic. We need to get some programs that are supposed to be depicting reality to get a bit less outlandish and more realistic. And perhaps we should stop getting so much reality TV where people are in there for their minutes of fame and as much as they can milk afterwards and do not actually care that they are rude, bad spoken and setting a bad example for the most easily influenced people in our society: teenagers and children.
    On the plus side, we do not watch any of that stuff in this household and, when anything that might have "dubious" content is on (like Top Gear, Have I Got News For You, Never Mind The Buzzcocks) we make sure it is watched once the kids are in bed, even if it means recording the program.

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  • 25. At 3:03pm on 23 Jun 2008, toddlerhip wrote:

    Wouldn't it be nice to have a "Rate this comment" feature instead of just a "Complain about this comment". Nudge nudge.

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  • 26. At 3:36pm on 23 Jun 2008, chrisboote wrote:

    Here's a simple nudge

    For Big Brother, every time one of the 'contestants' swears, £1 is removed from the prize pot

    If that doesn't keep their foul mouths shut, nothing will!

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  • 27. At 4:09pm on 23 Jun 2008, Rogerborg wrote:

    All cars should have trip computers that constantly display MPG figures. Then we can smack into other road users while staring fixatedly at our MPG display rather than our speedometers.

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  • 28. At 4:15pm on 23 Jun 2008, VirgoNews wrote:

    Nudging! well I guess we need 'sound bite' phrases to help the government get their message across. However, it is going to be very difficult to 'nudge' a society that has become increasingly economically and socially divided. Nudging requires that those being nudged feel some sense of group social identity, and there is lies the issue. We no longer share group values. We need to begin to estazblish what ARE shared values before we start 'Nudging' anyone anywhere, otherwise it will just be more big brother state edicts.

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  • 29. At 4:27pm on 23 Jun 2008, Hugh Barnard wrote:

    How about having an evolved and well-argued personal morality and doing things because they are 'right' rather than doing things:
    - because one will be fined
    - because one has been socially engineered
    - because of some kind of spin
    If we start on this now, the kind of government we have now will eventually wither away as being surplus to requirements (well, it won't but we can do a bit of nudging of our own at a later stage).

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  • 30. At 4:53pm on 23 Jun 2008, notgodzod wrote:

    #25: i was thinking exactly the same thing.

    so many good points made so far.

    to be honest, i can't say i know what the answer is - i'm sure there are many facets to solving this problem. the best i have come up with is to try to change myself before i really go on about changing other people. and after discovering just how hard it has been for me to make those important changes in my life, i'm less ready to condemn others for their behaviour. its not that i like it - in fact i often cry tears of rage and sadness for how the world has turned out to be. however, i truly believe that everyone - EVERYONE - does their very best. and in my experience, it is far easier to change someone's behaviour or attitude if you show them that kind of respect and generosity of nature.

    as for those of you complaining about foul language - please please please get a life. take a look out the window - people are killing each other.

    sirsinstral (#17) - love your comment!

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  • 31. At 5:01pm on 23 Jun 2008, Olly Benson wrote:

    My favourite form of nudging was the roadworks on the A421 between Cambridge and the A1.

    They were doing roadworks and had the typical speed limits in place, and cameras to monitor people going too fast. But instead of simply flashing "Slow Down"; it put a sad face if you were driving too fast and a smiley face if you were driving at the correct speed. Praise for doing the correct thing as opposed to simply being being criticised for doing wrong.

    Olly

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  • 32. At 5:33pm on 23 Jun 2008, D Dortman wrote:

    A good nudge is to charge MORE for something to make people instinctively think that what they are getting is BETTER.

    Although that's more a nudge for evil than the common good - but it's still probably one of the most widely used nudges.

    Linux and windows is a perfect example of this, with Linux actually being better for most average home PC users, but generally being "free" is perceived as low quality by most.

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  • 33. At 5:53pm on 23 Jun 2008, 21stcenturybrain wrote:

    We need a Stricter Tv Watchdog.

    A prime example of tastless programming on our televisions is Skins.

    This programme is aimed at 15- 20 year olds about a group of 17year olds and their eventful lives which consist of casual sex, drug taking, drink binging.

    The programmes makers claim this reflects the lives of young people these days.

    As a young person I can tell you the themes in this programme are exagerated.
    They actually glorify, and make the assumption for young kids that having casual sex is acceptable and normal.
    Taking ecstacy and smoking cannibus is also glorified.

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  • 34. At 6:13pm on 23 Jun 2008, Philip Bradbury wrote:

    At road works where traffic has to merge into one lane in anticipation of a lane closure often miles ahead. Stop the irritation of selfish drivers overtaking the patient queue by posting signs "Use Both Lanes then Merge in Turn"

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  • 35. At 6:48pm on 23 Jun 2008, Ernie wrote:

    Sorry, but I'm sick of this.

    I'm afraid I have yet to be convinced that it is the government's job (or anyone elses) to tell me what to eat, how much to drink, whether I should exercise and how much, whether to smoke, what to smoke...

    Governments job is to protect us from each other and external threats, not to protect us from ourselves.

    We don't need to find ways to nudge people into conformity, I find the suggestion offensive, we need a level playing field, adequate and accurate information, and to be left to get on with our lives as intelligent and autonomous human beings.

    The current government seem to think that we should be spending every moment of our lives wondering exactly how we can further conform and contribute tax to the public coffers.

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  • 36. At 7:08pm on 23 Jun 2008, arvinddevalia wrote:

    It is all about each person being personally socially responsible.

    It is not about the government or anyone else doing the right thing for us or coercing us into doing the right thing.

    I am currently writing a book about this very topis - "Personal Social Responsibility" and will be writing online at my blog - http://www.PersonalSocialResponsibility.com


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  • 37. At 7:10pm on 23 Jun 2008, arvinddevalia wrote:

    It is all about each person being personally socially responsible.

    It is not about the government or anyone else doing the right thing for us or coercing us into doing the right thing.

    I am currently writing a book about this very topis - "Personal Social Responsibility" and will be writing online at my blog with the same title.

    I am glad this debate has been started here as I do believe that major changs can happen in our world if everyone just begins to take some small steps themselves.

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  • 38. At 8:29pm on 23 Jun 2008, notgodzod wrote:

    re post #35.

    i love the idea of us all living as intelligent and autonomous beings, but the truth as i see it is that individuals' level of intelligence and ability to live autonomously is highly variable. the idea of us being 'left' to live intelligently and autonomously is a bit idealistic. the fact is we need to create intelligent autonomy in our society.

    i agree that adequate and accurate information and a fair playing field etc are extremely important, but i think that there are also deeper reasons why people are not very self-possessed.

    can we really 'nudge' people into being senistive and caring parents?

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  • 39. At 8:34pm on 23 Jun 2008, peteinamerica wrote:

    Apropos #6. These so-called reality shows have a lot to answer for. If behaving really badly can get you 15 weeks of fame, why settle for '15 minutes' by acting normally?

    Nudging them off the screen would improve the whole country greatly.

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  • 40. At 8:44pm on 23 Jun 2008, tedyeoman wrote:

    Notgodzod @30

    yes they are killing each other ... but I bet there is some swearing to intimidate and pschyc each other up first....

    Normalising not swearing at least means there is another gateway to stop at before the knives go in.

    I think you are right in your conclusion to 38 tho ... sadly

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  • 41. At 9:27pm on 23 Jun 2008, illustriousFrisby wrote:

    A nudge: In Newport Pagnell, we have plenty of bins, very handy and anyone who throws rubbish on the ground should have a nudge, and it should be picked up, in front of them, point to the bin and perhaps they'd throw it in. And NO punch in the face.

    We need a nudge from someone (not me, I don't drink) but some people need a nudge from perhaps fellow "revellers" when they are out and have drunk as much as they can cope with.

    And speaking the Queen's English would be another good idea.

    Lastly - a smile for someone, once a day.

    IllustriousFrisby

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  • 42. At 10:32pm on 23 Jun 2008, hurielle wrote:

    I saw recently that breast feeding babies uses 500 calories a day. What a perfect nudge for the NHS, La Leche League etc to get young mothers who are not confident about the other benefits of breast feeding. 500 calories, what's not to like

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  • 43. At 10:34pm on 23 Jun 2008, hurielle wrote:

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the House Rules.

  • 44. At 11:17pm on 23 Jun 2008, AppleJohnF wrote:

    I like the idea of Nudging, (when it is more carrot than stick) especially given the alternatives. The idea of some light handed, well timed and well placed guidance appeals as a better way of improving society. I commend your attempt to find good examples - How about (good) parental guidance? Looking back at my youth, I responded much better to parental nudging than heavy handed direction. Does that count as a link to you "Will the poor always be with us..." article?

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  • 45. At 11:29pm on 23 Jun 2008, harbinger_of_truth wrote:

    We get nudges every day from politicians,newspapers,tv. Unfortunatly they all seem to be in the wrong direction!!

    we cant go to the pub and smoke yet our mp's can in the bar inside the commons(not very common then)

    We cant commit benefit fraud without a criminal record,unless you are an mp!!

    We have a ministry of defense that likes to go to war(war office would be a better title)

    We dont need a nudge at all in any way,what we need is to be led by example, not Do as i say not as i do.

    If the politicians didnt lie cheat steal and attack innocents maybe just maybe we would be living in a better country!!!

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  • 46. At 01:16am on 24 Jun 2008, Spockleyfound wrote:

    Love the fly idea, I had a Ping-Pong ball in my toilet at home to improve the aim of my crew!
    I would have good manners top priority in first school. Reward and encourage good manners give them rules of etiquette. Maintain and exercise good manners and respect in all schools and reward good deeds and kindness with acknowledgements and awards.
    All children will learn more and get more from school in an environment that is run with respect and good manners at it's heart. This environment can be built regardless of any child's home, this change MUST start in the schools.
    With or without the parents support, children must be shown that the educational environment is one of caring and respect.
    This has been done in a number of 'no-hope' schools with fantastic success, we need it rolling out across them all.
    ....and lets sing more! Happy tunes, together. Just makes you feel good. Bring back school assembly's and find mutually acceptable 'up' songs to start the day with!

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  • 47. At 02:10am on 24 Jun 2008, dennisjunior1 wrote:

    I think that we all need a nudge in the correct direction, from time-to-time.

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  • 48. At 08:23am on 24 Jun 2008, steven_green wrote:

    But who decides what we are to be "nudged" towards? The world most of the people responding here want to create sounds uniform, regimented, boring and quietly middle class

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  • 49. At 2:56pm on 24 Jun 2008, machinehappydays wrote:

    A nudge can seem quite friendly.
    When a nudge becomes a push and more, is the reaction not to push back?
    I feel we are being pushed.
    Our lives are no longer our own we are not part of the picture anymore.
    In efforts to describe the general public we have been been told we cannot understand what is best for us, (too stupid) so our choice has been taken away.
    I feel this government has damaged our country and our Democracy in wich I was so proud.

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  • 50. At 3:40pm on 24 Jun 2008, toddlerhip wrote:

    It's not a question of social engineering, it's about making life better for yourself and those around you. People learn information, tips and ideas from each other. Life is more satisfying if you are involved in a community. The trick is getting people to join in and the council to stay out.

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  • 51. At 3:58pm on 24 Jun 2008, bobsotherview wrote:

    how about making "I'm Free" by the Stones a second national anthem, so at all the state occasions the prime minister is forced to listen to it, it can be a little nudge as to the type of nation most people would like to live in.

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  • 52. At 4:29pm on 24 Jun 2008, scotchcart wrote:

    I own recipe books because I can't cook. Isn't this the same thing?

    I do like the speed limit signs that laugh and frown with me - and given the availability of electronics - I think all signs should be transmitted into the car - just technological progress. It would be quite nice if the electronic boards at railway stations related to real life as well.

    I do think we should let people get on with their jobs. They usually do them well when they are given half-a-chance.

    Mostly people do what they do because other people do. Rubbish goes on the ground because there is NO bin, or the bin is full.

    I'm new around here and I don't find British manners bad at all - people are pretty friendly for a city the size of London. The worst manners are seen on country roads where tailgating is the norm. And from officials wealding a smidgeon of power. British managers seem to take the Office seriously. I haven't spoken to a police officer and I have my doubts they really exist.

    The ordinary people are fine.

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  • 53. At 4:33pm on 24 Jun 2008, mullerman wrote:

    The litter Police spot you 'littering', collect the evidence, follow you home and throw it your front garden. This goes for dog mess also!

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  • 54. At 4:37pm on 24 Jun 2008, mullerman wrote:

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the House Rules.

  • 55. At 7:36pm on 24 Jun 2008, NicolaHale wrote:

    Hey, looks like this could be a fascinating blog.

    Re nudges, I know that some police forces in areas of London with gang problems eat lunch at local secondary schools. Since young people in gangs and at risk of gang involvement are marked out by their hostile attitudes towards the police and criminal justice agencies, I think it's a nice little idea.

    Even better - don't know if it is actually happening or was just mooted, but - I've read about an idea to have police officers come into schools to help struggling readers with one-to-one reading assistance. The logic being provided by the correlation between illiteracy and criminal involvement...
    (Although it does almost make one think, why not just dress the teachers themselves up in police uniforms..?)


    I have to say, as a psychologist myself, the talk of social norms and 'nudges' does seem a tad faddish. I'm not criticising Mr Easton but the wider discourse. For instance, the terrific fly-in-the-urinal nudge has nothing to do with emphasising social norms... Cutting through the hype, what this should really be about is using all the knowledge and creativity we have to change people's behaviour as efficiently as possible (rather than always resorting to unimaginative system of incentives and punishments - usually financial)

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  • 56. At 10:00pm on 24 Jun 2008, toddlerhip wrote:

    A strong correlation with low crime is the number of people in the area who know each other....

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  • 57. At 11:39am on 25 Jun 2008, smilingSueblue wrote:

    TV advert nudge between programmes - Where are your kids and what are they doing right now?

    Nudge notice on public transport - Do you really want to share your mobile phone conversation with the other passengers?

    Nudge notice on music CD's - Not everyone shares your taste in music so keep the volume down to a considerate level.


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  • 58. At 4:53pm on 25 Jun 2008, Northumbrian wrote:

    My favourite "nudge", which is not quite of the "reforming manners" type:

    In a home for people with dementia which we visited, they had little alleyways to walk down. At the end of each was a seat. It was explained that if you let people with severe dementia walk around, when they get to walls, they can't make a conscious decision to turn round and walk away. So they can stand battering the wall in an attempt to keep walking.

    If you put a seat there, the residual memory of behaviour patterns "seat = sit down" kicks in, and they sit down, turning round in the process. When they stand up again, they are pointing themselves back towards the centre of the garden.

    I thought that was brilliant.

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  • 59. At 10:26am on 26 Jun 2008, smilingSueblue wrote:

    #35 I have to disagree with your comment about not being protected from ourselves. We are our own worst enemy. In spite of the reams of advice and information out there we make choices to drink to excess, smoke, take drugs, speed, drop litter, etc. etc. and we do this secure in the knowledge that someone somewhere will cure our self-inflicted illnesses, rescue us from our accidents and clean up after us. I wonder if we would be so uppity about living our lives as we choose if we didn't have the "givers" around to take care of the "takers"? In Britain today we take far too much for granted. We are greedy, selfish and inconsiderate. We get "depressed" when we can't afford the latest fashion or have the house and furnishings we fancy or go on the luxury holiday. The more we have the more we want. Me, myself, I, I want I want. It is our own behaviour that causes our problems, and it is our examples that influence the behaviour of our children. Each of us should take a look around us and see how lucky we are, and be thankful that we don't still live in caves having to fight to the death for food for our families. That we aren't ruled by a government that kills whole sections of society who don't conform. Instead of wondering what we can get out of life we should be wondering what we can contribute.

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  • 60. At 1:49pm on 27 Jun 2008, Ankara wrote:

    #19 What complete nonsense. This will only encourage people to drop litter, safe in the knowledge that some mug will come and pick it up for them.

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  • 61. At 4:34pm on 01 Jul 2008, Ernie wrote:

    #59 "in spite of the reams of advice and information out there we make choices to drink to excess, smoke, take drugs"

    All of these are nobody's business but our own. I do not harm you by taking drugs, smoking or drinking, and therefore it is absolutely nothing to do with you. In fact smokers pay far more than their share into the NHS, so some of these things actually benefit you.

    "speed, drop litter, etc. etc."

    Those last two are a matter of protecting other people's interests and not included in my plea to be left alone.

    "Each of us should take a look around us and see how lucky we are, and be thankful that we don't still live in caves having to fight to the death for food for our families"

    I'm sorry, but this could be applied to a police state or a communist regime too. The fact that one is not struggling for the essentials of life from day to day does not rule out debate over politics or outrage over ever diminishing liberties. Neither does wondering what one can contribute to life automatically make one amenable to a constant stream of new rules, regulations and social engineering.

    I'm afraid that's just intellectual dishonesty.

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  • 62. At 2:12pm on 03 Jul 2008, nogginthenog wrote:

    The so-called Nudge is one of the main causes of woe to society today, esp the subliminal kind of nudge.
    People think they have freedom of choice, and yet they buy things they dont need, buy what they can't really afford, also they wear things that dont suit them (in the name of fasion) that had been planned years in advance by the ad masters
    Our whole thought process has been nudged whether it be football or politics by the people who control the media,and yet most of us still think we have independent thoughts.
    When i was a young man being cool was having something nobody else had,Now things have done a complete about turn.and everbody has to be the same and think the same to be cool.
    How times have changed!

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  • 63. At 10:58pm on 07 Jul 2008, zurgleflip wrote:

    Linking this story to your later stories about knife crime is informative - youths in inner city areas are being told repeatedly (against the statistical evidence) that their 'social norm' is to carry a knife. So more of them do.
    My 'nudge' would be to tell the media to tell facts rather than scare stories that actually worsen a fairly limited problem.

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  • 64. At 11:53pm on 01 Sep 2008, NutitanicPassenger wrote:

    I really like this 'nudge' idea.
    Perhaps the idea could be applied to the way the News is presented..I know the news is only meant to deliver the facts but sometimes I think crimes and bad things 'should' be reported with some kind of disapproving 'human' comment about it.....that might work as a sort of 'nudge'.

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  • 65. At 01:42am on 22 Nov 2008, Cazzie01 wrote:

    I love this thread! I think our postmen and our binmen need a nudge that says 'its ok to smile sometimes.' Everymorning I wake up running round like a mad woman getting my kids ready for school, and my head spinning because the baby refuses to eat his breakfast, and seems to think it funny that the others should be late for school! The last thing I want to see, when I open my door is a binman or a postman with a grumpy face like a very wet weekend, and boy we have had alot of them recently! So come on guys nudge your binmen and postmen and tell them to'smile, as christmas is nearly here!'

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  • 66. At 09:38am on 22 Nov 2008, grumpynotoldman wrote:

    Nudges are based on the Motivational Interviewing techniques developed by William R Miller and friends to counter the nonsense of Confrontation therapy in the old 12 step alcohol treatment system. As a psychologist he knew that people's behaviour became entrenched when given unsolicited advice. His paper on Horse Whispering is seminal. He has a brilliant website giving away his skills and knowledge.
    Unfortunately media gurus know all this too, and misuse it to nudge us into wanting their useless products.
    However knowledge used for so called good reasons can be misused by less subtle people who don't understand the principles.
    Hence everyone feeling got at by unsolicited public health messages which can't possibly apply to everyone. Most of the messages gets ditched by everyone, who know we are not all the same.
    When it's personalised and personal it works. Not strange that, is it? We own it and live it. Hence the comment #30, about how hard it is to change personal behaviour even when you want to.
    That's why we get junk mail, unsolicited calls selling rubbish, and approached in the malls by someone who can sum you up in an instant. There are people who want what they've got and it's worth their while trying to nudge everyone.
    Cultural and behaiour change are only possible with a lot of effort, inclusion and ownership. There will always be outsiders, but their distance from the norm will be less if the larger group is closer to the norms, that they have decided to share.

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