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Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness [Kindle Edition]

Cass R. Sunstein , Richard H. Thaler
3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (113 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Every day, we make decisions on topics ranging from personal investments to schools for our children to the meals we eat to the causes we champion. Unfortunately, we often choose poorly. The reason, the authors explain, is that, being human, we all are susceptible to various biases that can lead us to blunder. Our mistakes make us poorer and less healthy; we often make bad decisions involving education, personal finance, health care, mortgages and credit cards, the family, and even the planet itself.
Thaler and Sunstein invite us to enter an alternative world, one that takes our humanness as a given. They show that by knowing how people think, we can design choice environments that make it easier for people to choose what is best for themselves, their families, and their society. Using colorful examples from the most important aspects of life, Thaler and Sunstein demonstrate how thoughtful choice architecture can be established to nudge us in beneficial directions without restricting freedom of choice. Nudge offers a unique new take from neither the left nor the righton many hot-button issues, for individuals and governments alike. This is one of the most engaging and provocative books to come along in many years.

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review



Questions for Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein

Amazon.com: What do you mean by "nudge" and why do people sometimes need to be nudged?

Thaler and Sunstein: By a nudge we mean anything that influences our choices. A school cafeteria might try to nudge kids toward good diets by putting the healthiest foods at front. We think that it's time for institutions, including government, to become much more user-friendly by enlisting the science of choice to make life easier for people and by gentling nudging them in directions that will make their lives better.

Amazon.com: What are some of the situations where nudges can make a difference?

Thaler and Sunstein: Well, to name just a few: better investments for everyone, more savings for retirement, less obesity, more charitable giving, a cleaner planet, and an improved educational system. We could easily make people both wealthier and healthier by devising friendlier choice environments, or architectures.

Amazon.com: Can you describe a nudge that is now being used successfully?

Thaler and Sunstein: One example is the Save More Tomorrow program. Firms offer employees who are not saving very much the option of joining a program in which their saving rates are automatically increased whenever the employee gets a raise. This plan has more than tripled saving rates in some firms, and is now offered by thousands of employers.

Amazon.com: What is "choice architecture" and how does it affect the average person's daily life?

Thaler and Sunstein: Choice architecture is the context in which you make your choice. Suppose you go into a cafeteria. What do you see first, the salad bar or the burger and fries stand? Where's the chocolate cake? Where's the fruit? These features influence what you will choose to eat, so the person who decides how to display the food is the choice architect of the cafeteria. All of our choices are similarly influenced by choice architects. The architecture includes rules deciding what happens if you do nothing; what's said and what isn't said; what you see and what you don't. Doctors, employers, credit card companies, banks, and even parents are choice architects.

We show that by carefully designing the choice architecture, we can make dramatic improvements in the decisions people make, without forcing anyone to do anything. For example, we can help people save more and invest better in their retirement plans, make better choices when picking a mortgage, save on their utility bills, and improve the environment simultaneously. Good choice architecture can even improve the process of getting a divorce--or (a happier thought) getting married in the first place!

Amazon.com: You are very adamant about allowing people to have choice, even though they may make bad ones. But if we know what's best for people, why just nudge? Why not push and shove?

Thaler and Sunstein: Those who are in position to shape our decisions can overreach or make mistakes, and freedom of choice is a safeguard to that. One of our goals in writing this book is to show that it is possible to help people make better choices and retain or even expand freedom. If people have their own ideas about what to eat and drink, and how to invest their money, they should be allowed to do so.

Amazon.com: You point out that most people spend more time picking out a new TV or audio device than they do choosing their health plan or retirement investment strategy? Why do most people go into what you describe as "auto-pilot mode" even when it comes to making important long-term decisions?

Thaler and Sunstein: There are three factors at work. First, people procrastinate, especially when a decision is hard. And having too many choices can create an information overload. Research shows that in many situations people will just delay making a choice altogether if they can (say by not joining their 401(k) plan), or will just take the easy way out by selecting the default option, or the one that is being suggested by a pushy salesman.

Second, our world has gotten a lot more complicated. Thirty years ago most mortgages were of the 30-year fixed-rate variety making them easy to compare. Now mortgages come in dozens of varieties, and even finance professors can have trouble figuring out which one is best. Since the cost of figuring out which one is best is so hard, an unscrupulous mortgage broker can easily push unsophisticated borrowers into taking a bad deal.

Third, although one might think that high stakes would make people pay more attention, instead it can just make people tense. In such situations some people react by curling into a ball and thinking, well, err, I'll do something else instead, like stare at the television or think about baseball. So, much of our lives is lived on auto-pilot, just because weighing complicated decisions is not so easy, and sometimes not so fun. Nudges can help ensure that even when we're on auto-pilot, or unwilling to make a hard choice, the deck is stacked in our favor.

Amazon.com: Are we humans just poorly adapted for making sound judgments in an increasingly fast-paced and complex world? What can we do to position ourselves better?

Thaler and Sunstein: The human brain is amazing, but it evolved for specific purposes, such as avoiding predators and finding food. Those purposes do not include choosing good credit card plans, reducing harmful pollution, avoiding fatty foods, and planning for a decade or so from now. Fortunately, a few nudges can help a lot. A few small hints: Sign up for automatic payment plans so you don’t pay late fees. Stop using your credit cards until you can pay them off on time every month. Make sure you're enrolled in a 401(k) plan. A final hint: Read Nudge.




Review
"How often do you read a book that is both important and amusing, both practical and deep? This gem of a book presents the best idea that has come out of behavioral economics. It is a must-read for anyone who wants to see both our minds and our society working better. It will improve your decisions and it will make the world a better place."-Daniel Kahneman, Princeton University, Nobel Laureate in Economics (Daniel Kahneman )

"In this utterly brilliant book, Thaler and Sunstein teach us how to steer people toward better health, sounder investments, and cleaner environments without depriving them of their inalienable right to make a mess of things if they want to. The inventor of behavioral economics and one of the nation''s best legal minds have produced the manifesto for a revolution in practice and policy. Nudge won''t nudge you-it will knock you off your feet."-Daniel Gilbert, professor of psychology, Harvard University, Author of Stumbling on Happiness (Daniel Gilbert )

"This is an engaging, informative, and thoroughly delightful book. Thaler and Sunstein provide important lessons for structuring social policies so that people still have complete choice over their own actions, but are gently nudged to do what is in their own best interests. Well done."-Don Norman, Northwestern University, Author of The Design of Everyday Things and The Design of Future Things (Don Norman )

"This book is terrific. It will change the way you think, not only about the world around you and some of its bigger problems, but also about yourself."-Michael Lewis, author of The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game and Liar''s Poker (Michael Lewis )

"Two University of Chicago professors sketch a new approach to public policy that takes into account the odd realities of human behavior, like the deep and unthinking tendency to conform. Even in areas-like energy consumption-where conformity is irrelevant. Thaler has documented the ways people act illogically."-Barbara Kiviat, Time (Barbara Kiviat Time )

"Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein''s Nudge is a wonderful book: more fun than any important book has a right to be-and yet it is truly both."-Roger Lowenstein, author of When Genius Failed (Roger Lowenstein )

"A manifesto for using the recent behavioral research to help people, as well as government agencies, companies and charities, make better decisions."-David Leonhardt, The New York Times Magazine (David Leonhardt The New York Times Magazine )

"I love this book. It is one of the few books I''ve read recently that fundamentally changes the way I think about the world. Just as surprising, it is fun to read, drawing on examples as far afield as urinals, 401(k) plans, organ donations, and marriage. Academics aren''t supposed to be able to write this well."-Steven Levitt, Alvin Baum Professor of Economics, University of Chicago Graduate School of Business and co-author of Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything (Steven Levitt )

Review

'I love this book. It is one of the few books I've read recently that fundamentally changes the way I think about the world' Steven Levitt, author of Freakonomics 'This is a book that every CEO, or aspiring CEO, will want to read' James Kilts, former CEO of Gillette 'A manifesto for using the recent behavioral research to help people, as well as government agencies, companies and charities, make better decisions' New York Times 'A must-read for anyone who wants to see both our minds and our society working better. It will improve your decisions and it will make the world a better place' Daniel Kahneman, Nobel Laureate in Economics 'Nudge is as important a book as any I've read in perhaps 20 years' Barry Schwartz, author of The Paradox of Choice 'I am badly remiss for not heartily, vigorously, unabashedly endorsing for your immediate and intense attention the relatively new Nudge, by Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein' Tom Peters, manangement guru 'Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein's "Nudge" is a wonderful book. More fun than any important book has a right to be - and yet it is truly both' Roger Lowenstein, author of When Genius Failed 'Nudge won't nudge you - it will knock you off your feet' Daniel Gilbert, author of Stumbling on Happiness

Product Details

  • File Size: 848 KB
  • Print Length: 304 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0300122233
  • Publisher: Yale University Press; 1 edition (April 8, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B004YKSXXS
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #232,492 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
350 of 419 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The elephant in the room. March 23, 2008
Format:Hardcover
Richard H. Thaler and Cass R. Sunstein are both professors at the University of Chicago and where the Chicago school was once famous for the Milton Friedman doctrine of free markets (look where they've got us today!) Thaler and now his Law professor friend Cass Sunstein have swung the pendulum the other way.

Here in Nudge, they argue that totally free markets can lead to disasters precisely because human individuals are not actually very good decision-makers. As Behavioural Economists (Kahneman & Tversky Judgment under Uncertainty: Heuristics and Biases- who credited Thaler as being a key inspiration - and Dan Ariely, whose Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions has become a best seller) argue, we are riddled with little psychological tics in our decision-making processes. We buy things, then suffer remorse. We get confused by choices and often make no choice at all.

But where Ariely keeps his discourse in the world of the day to day, Thaler and Sunstein develop an argument that is political - and is bound to cause heated debate. What they argue is that, in the face of our decision-making weaknesses, Governments and Businesses can help "nudge" us in the right direction. The elephant in the room can be benign.

They call their viewpoint `libertarian paternalism' and what they argue is that it would be a good thing for some gentle nudging of the citizenry in the right direction. As Thaler said recently in the New York Times: "In light of human limitations, Cass Sunstein and I argue for policies that we call libertarian paternalism.
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80 of 93 people found the following review helpful
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This book covers a lot of ground, and none of it is covered with any rigour or depth.

There are occasional interesting pieces of insight - for example, if you want people to reduce their energy usage, it may be enough to tell above-average users that they are in that category - below-average users, not so much, they may then use more energy - but you can counter this by a nice smiley emoticon next to where that fact is displayed (implying they're doing a great thing by using less energy) and their usage will stay low.

The problem is, to gain these nice pieces of insight, I had to dig through much much more content that was not covered well.

Here are some of the the things you'll find in this book

- A superficial review of psychology research concerning a few factors on how people make choices (For example, too many choices lead to overwhelm and bad decisions. Another example - people can be influenced to make a bad decision if others around them are making bad decisions).
- A explanation of how people can be helped to make good choices, for example with food, by where food is placed on store shelves (e.g. at eye level vs not).
- Many many pages of excruciating detail on why choices of medical insurance plans can be a complex and painful process. Ditto for how the complexity of investing can lead to bad investment choices. None of this is original.
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105 of 130 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Important for medical decisions as well March 31, 2008
Format:Hardcover
"Buy on apples, sell on cheese" is an old proverb among wine merchants. Taking a bite of an apple before tasting wine makes it easier to detect flaws in the wine, and the buyer who does so will not as easily make the mistake of paying more than the wine is worth. Cheese, on the other hand, pairs well with wine and enhances its flavor, so a seller who offers cheese may command a higher price for the wine (and may even deserve it, if the wine is intended to be drunk with cheese).

The proverb captures important psychological nuances of choice. The same product - a bottle of wine or a risky medical procedure - may be perceived differently depending on its context, and it is often possible to arrange the context to influence a choice while still maintaining the decision maker's autonomy.

The practice of structuring choices is called "choice architecture" in a brilliant and important new book, Nudge, by University of Chicago Distinguished Professors Richard Thaler (Business) and Cass Sunstein (Law). Nudge lays out the groundwork for the science of choice architecture in investing, insurance, health care delivery, and other areas, and argues for a "libertarian paternalism" in which choices are structured to make it more likely that a decision maker will select what is considered the most beneficial option, without impairing the ability to decision makers to select other options. For example, making enrollment in 401(k) plans automatic for new employees, with a form for opting out, is likely to result in greater retirement savings than an opt-in system, without limiting anyone's freedom to choose.

Thaler and Sunstein apply the principles of choice architecture to a few problems in health care (How could Medicare part D be improved? How can organ donation rates be increased?
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Nudge us away from following the latest fad?
I am going to follow that fad, and write a book entitled. "One."

It will be about the new cool of one word titles that have suddenly exploded on the scene, the... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Mark Twain's Bro
3.0 out of 5 stars History has proven them wrong, at least for credit products
Interesting thesis, but flawed. It may work for some markets, like retirement accounts, but it does not work for all markets. One example is credit cards. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Chi Chi Wu
4.0 out of 5 stars An easy to read introduction to behavioral economics
For anyone wanting to find out more about the interesting world of behavioral economics, this book would be a great starting point. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Mark
5.0 out of 5 stars It seems simple - and cheap - to make the world a better place!
It seems simple - and cheap - to make the world a better place! Not deciding or random actions are not a valid option.
Published 3 months ago by Elbing
3.0 out of 5 stars Good book but tedious and repetitive
The book has one nice idea, but it stretches it for too long, It is nicely written and has some good parts, but in many cases it takes the obvious and goes on and on explaining it... Read more
Published 3 months ago by swingman
2.0 out of 5 stars Big Brother is Nudging You!
Yes, that's right, Big Brother is nudging you. But nicely, oh so nicely. Which makes it alright then, doesn't it?

Actually no, no it doesn't. Read more
Published 5 months ago by Allen Baird
4.0 out of 5 stars Good read
This would be a great read for anyone interested in public policy. It's written in a clear, easy to read style. Read more
Published 7 months ago by L. Gent
4.0 out of 5 stars Great book
Thaler is an economist that I respect and admire. I studied behavioral finance and his contributions to the field are very significant. Read more
Published 8 months ago by matthew
4.0 out of 5 stars Good read
Lots of good points made in book that I found interesting. I will recommend this book to many of my friends
Published 8 months ago by Kim Shaffner
3.0 out of 5 stars From exiting to boring
The first bit is very exiting and interesting - and then it start get boring espessially the tedious walk through pensions and funding.
Published 10 months ago by åge
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