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  • Writer's pictureSally Khallash

Warning: You're about to be nudged


Nudging and presenting people with a default option is a way of influencing choices without limiting options or making some choices more costly and generally known to influence our most important decisions.

However, some critics argue that defaults are unethical because people are typically unaware that they are being nudged toward a decision. If they knew they were being nudged, they would resist the influence of the default up to the point of deliberately rejecting it.

But a team of researchers led by Carnegie Mellon University behavioural economist George Loewenstein, Ph.D., found that warning people that they were about to be nudged, or informing them after the fact and allowing them to change their decisions, did not significantly diminish the effectiveness of the default option:

The effect of the defaults persisted, despite the researcher disclosure it, suggesting that the effectiveness of nudges may not depend on deceit.

This means that a nudge can be effective even when the person knows they are being nudged.

People think that defaults — or nudges — exploit psychological weaknesses because they are covert, or not obvious. They also think that defaults will not work if people are aware that they are being nudged. Hopefully, Loewenstein's findings can help to address these concerns.

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