Ben Castleman, an assistant professor at EdPolicyWorks and Curry, pens blog post with colleague on nudges for Huffington Post.
Chances are that someone has nudged you today—even if you didn’t realize it. Maybe it was your doctor’s office, sending you a text message about an upcoming appointment. Or maybe it was an airline website, urging you to make a reservation because “only three tickets are left at this price.” In fact, the private sector has been nudging us in one way or another for at least 75 years, since the heyday of the Madison Avenue Ad Men.
It’s taken a few generations, but the public sector is starting to catch on. In policy domains ranging from consumer finance and public health to retirement planning and education, researchers are applying behavioral science insights to help people make more informed decisions that lead to better long-term outcomes.
Sometimes these nudges take the form of changing the rules that determine whether someone participates in a program or not (like switching the default so people are automatically enrolled in a retirement savings plan unless they opt out, rather than only enrolling people who actively sign up for the program). But oftentimes, nudges can be as simple as sending people simplified information about opportunities that are available to them, or reminders about important tasks they have to complete in order to participate in beneficial programs.