Nudge theory (or Nudge) is a concept in behavioural science, political theory and economics which argues that positive reinforcement and indirect suggestions to try to achieve non-forcedcompliance can influence the motives, incentives and decision making of groups and individuals, at least as effectively – if not more effectively – than direct instruction, legislation, or enforcement.
Nudge theory’s most celebrated influences include the formation of a British Behavioural Insights Team, often called the ‘Nudge Unit’, at the British Cabinet Office, headed by Dr David Halpernand US President Barack Obama’s appointment of Cass R. Sunstein as administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs. In Australia, the government of New South Wales established a Behavioural Insights community of practice.
The “Nudge” idea has been criticised. Dr Tammy Boyce, from public health foundation The King’s Fund, has said:
We need to move away from short-term, politically motivated initiatives such as the ‘nudging people’ idea, which are not based on any good evidence and don’t help people make long-term behaviour changes.