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What is a nudge?
Proposed in the 90's and brought to prominence by Thaler & Sunstien in 2008; a 'nudge' is is "any aspect of the choice architecture that alters people's behavior in a predictable way without forbidding any options". To put it another way, a nudge focuses on the design of the environment in which we make choices. Let us take the image above to illustrate the concept. Someone can drive down this road as quickly (or as slowly!) as they choose. Yes of course there are laws - but in reality laws are not always followed (not that I am advocating dangerous driving). So what can be done to better the chance of individuals driving on this stretch in a safe and legal way?
We have already spoken of laws and indeed highway codes and law enforcement do have an impact. Signs can also be put up to alert drivers of the dangers. These strategies appeal to our conscious decision making processes. We know how fast to drive because we have passed our driving test; we can interpret the various road signs as necessary. A nudge is something different. A nudge appeals to our subconscious / automated decision making.
The two lines in the middle work on a number of levels to help us choose to drive safely. Firstly, the line is thick and unbroken, suggesting that is should not be crossed. Secondly, the lines are yellow, a colour that can signify danger. Finally, they are placed with enough room for two vehicles to pass by each other at a 'reasonable' speed. The choice architecture has been designed in such a way to enable a 'good' decision. You could drive faster. You could drive towards the other-side of the road. But the vast majority will choose not to.
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