nudge mani

We are happy to announce that our article ‘Nudge and The Manipulation of Choice’ has just been published in the European Journal of Risk Regulation.

Nudge and the manipulation of choice



We are happy to announce that our article:

Nudge and the manipulation of choice: A Framework for the Responsible Use of the Nudge Approach to Behaviour Change in Public Policy – The European Journal of Risk Regulation

Pelle G. Hansen & Andreas Maaløe Jespersen, pp. Vol. 4, #1, 2013. 

has just been published in The European Journal of Risk Regulation (EJRR).

In the article we deal with the claim that nudges work through manipulation and thus are inappropriate as public tools for instigating behavioural change. By critically examining both the established criticisms as well as the defenses for nudge, we conclude that the current perspectives are too narrow, and that conflating all types of nudges inevitable leads to misunderstandings and confusion.

Therefore, we carefully consider how different types of nudges fit into a automatic/reflective and transparent/in-transparent framework – leaving us with four different types of nudges in total, of which only one qualifies as the manipulation of choice. We supply each of these types with separate ethical recommendations for their use as public policy tools.

The Abstract

In Nudge (2008) Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein suggested that public policy-makers arrange decision-making contexts in ways to promote behaviour change in the interest of individual citizens as well as that of society. However, in the public sphere and Academia alike widespread discussions have appeared concerning the public acceptability of nudgebased behavioural policy. Thaler and Sunstein’s own position is that the anti-nudge position is a literal non-starter, because citizens are always influenced by the decision making context anyway, and nudging is liberty preserving and acceptable if guided by Libertarian Paternalism and Rawls’ publicity principle. A persistent and central tenet in the criticism disputing the acceptability of the approach is that nudging works by manipulating citizens’ choices. In this paper, we argue that both lines of argumentation are seriously flawed. We show how the anti-nudge position is not a literal non-starter due to the responsibilities that accrue on policy-makers by the intentional intervention in citizens’ life, how nudging is not essentially liberty preserving and why the approach is not necessarily acceptable even if satisfying Rawls’ publicity principle. We then use the psychological dual process theory underlying the approach as well as an epistemic transparency criterion identified by Thaler and Sunstein themselves to show that nudging is not necessarily about “manipulation”, nor necessarily about influencing “choice”. The result is a framework identifying four types of nudges that may be used to provide a central component for more nuanced normative considerations as well as a basis for policy recommendations.

The European Journal of Risk Regulation

EJRR provides an innovative forum for informed discussion on how risks are regulated across policy domains in Europe. By focusing on both institutional and substantive aspects of EU risk regulation, it promotes a needed dialogue between risk assessors and risk managers involved, at both national and international level, in this contentious and continuously evolving area of law.

The Journal was recently ranked  # 9 in Administrative Law (Washington & Lee School of Law Journal Ranking) and # 10 in European Law (Washington & Lee School of Law Journal Ranking).