An unassuming book published 10 years ago turned out to be one of the most influential popular science books ever written. It most certainly has changed your life.
You may not realise it, but your own behaviour will have been changed by an unassuming book, published 10 years ago.
“Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth and Happiness” by Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein, is probably the most influential popular science book ever written.
Mary Ann Sieghart investigates the unexpected story of Nudge, which has prodded us into becoming fitter and richer, while transforming policy-making, changing our relationship with the state and saving governments billions across the world. Its impact has surprised even Cass Sustein, amazed “people have used the idea in ways we authors could not possibly have been creative enough to see.”
Honing in on exactly how Nudge works, Mary Ann is grilled in UCL's Love Lab to find out how she makes decisions; she finds taking the pound signs off the menu in a restaurant encourages her spend more and adding adjectives to the food really makes it taste better.
Walking through the Nudge Unit, she hears how powerful a tiny tweak on a form or text can get be, from getting people back to work to creating a more diverse police force. Popular with the political left and right, it has been embraced around the world; from Guatemala to Rwanda, Singapore to India it is used to reduce energy consumption, encourage organ donation, combat corruption and even stop civil wars.
But of course not everyone is using this powerful tool for good. “Like any form of knowledge you can use it for good or bad” says David Halpern, “in the same way as you can use biochemistry to make amazing new medicines or you can make neurotoxins to kill people.”
Mary Ann explores the darker side of Nudge, asking if we should be wary of who is nudging the nudgers and where it might go next.
Producer: Sarah Bowen