As the world leading behavioural scientists gather in London to share new and remarkable results, a new book – Inside the Nudge Unit – urges we ‘nudge for good’, and all keep an eye on who nudges the nudgers.
This week, the world’s leading behavioural experts are gathering in the UK, together with representatives from more than 20 countries.
There is a growing recognition that almost every policy issue has a human, behavioural aspect at its core. The majority of healthy years of life lost are from behavioural factors: smoking, diet, exercise. Research also shows the impact on health of less obvious behavioural factors too: a new study released at the event shows how giving to charity lowers blood pressure as much as changing diet. Similarly, reducing global warming rests on both technical and lifestyle change; public services rest on people being honest and paying their taxes; and productivity rests as much on motivation and engagement as it does economic incentives.
The last 5 years have seen hard results from applying behavioural insights to policy. Millions more people are saving for pensions as a result of changing from an opt-in to opt-out system. Hundreds of thousands of have been helped back to work faster as a result of encouraging them to plan out the next week, instead of proving what they did in the previous one. And hundreds of millions in tax revenue has been brought forward by small changes in tax reminders, such as pointing out that most people pay on time.
Back in 2010, many thought it was a gimmick. Not many think that any more. Governments across the world are turning to behavioural insights, many creating ‘nudge units’ in the manner of the UK’s own Behavioural Insights Team, including the USA, Germany, Singapore, New South Wales, Canada, Israel and many more.