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Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness Paperback – February 24, 2009


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Editorial Reviews

Review

"Fundamentally changes the way I think about the world. . . . Academics aren't supposed to be able to write this well." —Steven Levitt, co-author of Freakonomics
"[An] utterly brilliant book. . . . Nudge won't nudge you-it will knock you off your feet." —Daniel Gilbert, author of Stumbling on Happiness
"Nudge is as important a book as any I've read in perhaps twenty years. It is a book that people interested in any aspect of public policy should read. It is a book that people interested in politics should read. It is a book that people interested in ideas about human freedom should read. It is a book that people interested in promoting human welfare should read. If you're not interested in any of these topics, you can read something else." —Barry Schwartz, The American Prospect
"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 Moneyball

About the Author

Richard H. Thaler, a pioneer in the fields of behavioral economics and finance, is the Charles R. Walgreen Distinguished Service Professor of Behavioral Science and Economics at the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business, where he is the director of the Center for Decision Research. He is also the co-director (with Robert Shiller) of the Behavioral Economics Project at the National Bureau of Economic Research and the 2015 President of the American Economic Association. He has been published in several prominent journals and is the author of a number of books, including Misbehaving: The Making of Behavioral Economics.
 
Cass R. Sunstein is the Robert Walmsley University Professor at Harvard Law School, where he is the founder and director of the Program on Behavioral Economics and Public Policy. He is by far the most cited law professor in the United States. From 2009 to 2012 he served in the Obama administration as Administrator of the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs. He has testified before congressional committees, appeared on national television and radio shows, been involved in constitution-making and law reform activities in a number of nations, and written many articles and books, including Simpler: The Future of Government and Wiser: Getting Beyond Groupthink to Make Groups Smarter.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books; Revised & Expanded edition (February 24, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 014311526X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0143115267
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.8 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (318 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,541 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

And frankly, after reading the book I am a bit disappointed.
I. M. Idle
Some attempts at philosophical argument for why governments should be allowed to "nudge" people to better choices, but not done to any depth or rigour.
Amazon Customer
I would recommend this book for anyone interested in business/management: it is very insightful and relatively easy to read.
Socrates

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

181 of 202 people found the following review helpful By Hagios on October 27, 2009
Format: Paperback
The good part of this book is that it contains a lot of practical and nonpartisan policy advice, such as requiring corporations to sign people up for the 401(k) by default and then letting them opt out. This is an example of what they mean by "nudge". You don't need to coerce people; since something has to be the default option you can at least give them intelligent defaults.

The bad side of the book is its poor understanding of human nature. Libertarian economists such as Gary Becker have been aggressively promoting free markets based on a mathematical vision of rational decision making. Needless to say, this vision could only apply to ultra-logical people like Mr. Spock - the notorious Homo economicus. The breakthroughs of behavioral economics teach us that real people do not act like Mr. Spock. This book does an excellent job explaining the major findings of behavioral economics. But rather than try to understand the richness of real human behavior, most behavioral economists tilt towards the opposite extreme. They pronounce humans as irrational and filled with hidden biases. Homo economicus has been replaced by Homo irrationalus.

That's unfortunate because the real story of human nature is far more interesting. Consider the case of loss aversion (pp 33-34). In a classic experiment which has been replicated hundreds of times, students were randomly given free coffee mugs. The mug-less students were asked how much they would pay to get a mug and the students with mugs were asked how much they would want in order to sell their mugs. It turns out that students with mugs wanted an average of about twice as much as the mug-less students were willing to pay! This goes by the name of loss aversion, the endowment effect, and the status quo bias.
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162 of 192 people found the following review helpful By Lena on June 30, 2009
Format: Paperback
I liked the beginning of the book, but it became repetitive and boring after first three chapters. It could be due to the fact that I generally agree with the major premise of the book: people should be "nudged" to make a decision that will make them better off. And yes, the nudge should be transparent and not synonym to manipulating people's minds. And yes, the government has my permission to nudge me in the right direction; if as a result I will make a decision (for example) to exercise more and eat less junk food.
(As a side note, I will be happy to have such a smart government. Or well, this could be an issue. But this is a subject for another book).
I got it, and I don't need three chapters to convince me. Am I alone in this?

I was much more interested in why and how our brain works to react to the "nudges" ("popular psychology" side that was almost non-existent), than in authors' rebukes to the opponents of "libertarian paternalism" - the political implementation of their theory. The other thing that annoyed me was the authors' attempt to be funny and coin terms, names and definitions that were supposed to make the book readable. Instead, it got annoying after the third appearance of the term "libertarian paternalism" and after the fifth time I saw the term "Econ" (used for infamously rational person from economics textbooks).

I had an opportunity to listen to Thaler's presentation on this subject and it was lively and interesting. He is a brilliant speaker with many great ideas; unfortunately, it didn't translate into the brilliant writing.

I would still recommend the book for the ideas of "nudges" in different areas (personal finance, energy conservation, marketing, politics and everyday life). However, it fells short on the inspirational side. You shouldn't be able to put this book down. But you are.
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354 of 426 people found the following review helpful By D. Stuart on 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.
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