Jeremy Kauffman's Reviews > Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness

Nudge by Richard H. Thaler
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M 50x66
's review
Oct 28, 2010

really liked it
Read in October, 2010

This is not a well-written book. The writing is prosaic. The pacing is meh. You will almost certainly have no trouble putting it down. It is, however, a book almost everyone should read - especially politicians, technocrats, and others in positions of public policy.

Sunstein and Thaler argue that dramatic changes in human behavior can be effected through sensible changes in "choice architecture". Choice architecture is the orchestration of options. It can range from how choices are presented (make the broccoli easy to reach and in sight, but put the double fudge cake on the bottom shelf), to default options (make retirement plans opt-out, rather than opt-in), to a wide variety of other "nudges".

Nudge presents a copious amounts of data from psychology and behavioral economics. It supplements these with examples of successful and unsuccessful choice architecture. Only the most obstinate and orthodox could read this book and not come away convinced that subtle, inexpensive reforms are capable of achieving dramatic, positive changes.

Perhaps the most exciting thing about Nudge is that the reforms it proffers are bipartisan. Give people more information about the choices they make? Set defaults that are the best for everyone? Give people feedback about how efficient and effective their decisions are? The only people who can be against these ideas are those with a vested interests in an ignorant or otherwise misled populace.

The only question I'm left asking is: why aren't more of these changes happening?
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