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


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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: 8.5 x 5.5 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (165 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,385 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Common "Nudges"

  1. The design of menus gets you to eat (and spend) more. For example, lining up all prices on either side of the menu leads many consumers to simply pick the cheapest item. On the other hand, discretely listing prices at the end of food descriptions lets people read about the appetizing options first…; and then see prices.
  2. "Flies" in urinals improve, well, aim. When Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport was faced with the not uncommon issue of dirty urinals, they chose a unique solution: by painting "flies" in the (center of) commodes, men obligingly aimed at the insects, reducing spillage by 80 percent.
  3. Credit card minimum payments affect repayment schedules. Among those who only partially pay off credit card balances each month, the repayment level is correlated with the card's minimum payment — in other words, the lower the minimum payment, the longer it takes a consumer to pay off the card balance.
  4. Automatic savings programs increase savings rate. All over the country, companies are adopting 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 they get a raise. This plan has more than tripled saving rates in some firms, and is now offered by thousands of employers.
  5. "Defaults" can improve rates of organ donation. In the United States, about one–third of citizens have signed organ donor cards. Compare this to Austria, where 99 percent of people are potential organ donors. One obvious difference? Americans must explicitly consent to become organ donors (by signing forms, for example) while Austrians must opt out if they do not want to be organ donors.

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Customer Reviews

Very well written and easy to read.
J. Schliefert
They are entirely too dismissive of criticisms, and there is much more room for mischief and bad policy than they realize.
Joseph Collins
It's also a great book for anyone who wants to empower themselves to make better choices in their own lives.
Andi

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

128 of 144 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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152 of 181 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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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
An interesting work. . . . It speaks of how conditions can be changed and perhaps improved by "nudging" people. Rather than "beating up" on people, subtly nudge them. Fascinating reading and very provocative. Is nudging good? Or manipulative?

The authors, Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein, faculty at the University of Chicago, define a "nudge" as (Page 6): ". . .any aspect of the choice architecture that alters people's behavior in a predictable way without forbidding any options or significantly changing their economic incentives." Indeed, they define their perspective as "libertarian paternalism." They believe in freedom but also wish to use "nudges" to induce people to improve their health, and live longer and happier.

One simple example? Has any male ever used a urinal with a fly painted onto it? This simple nudge reduces "spillage" by 40% as males involuntarily try to hit the "target." In the process, there is a benefit, less smelliness and messiness in the restroom.

The book applies the nudge argument to investments, health, school choice, organ donation, the environment, marriage, and so on. In each case, they try to show how nudges and libertarian paternalism can improve the quality of life of individuals as well as providing social benefits.

Questions do arise, as the authors themselves admit. Is this a manipulative approach? Do we subtly manipulate people into doing things that they might not voluntarily wish to do? Thaler and Sunstein address these issues. Each reader will have to determine how well they succeed. A provocative and fascinating work, well worth reading.
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