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Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness [Hardcover]

Richard H. Thaler , Cass R. Sunstein
2.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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Review

"I love this book. It is one of the few books I've read recently that fundamentally changes the way I think about the world. Just as surprising, it is fun to read, drawing on examples as far afield as urinals, 401(k) plans, organ donations, and marriage. Academics aren't supposed to be able to write this well."—Steven Levitt, Alvin Baum Professor of Economics, University of Chicago Graduate School of Business and co-author of Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything
(Steven Levitt)

"In this utterly brilliant book, Thaler and Sunstein teach us how to steer people toward better health, sounder investments, and cleaner environments without depriving them of their inalienable right to make a mess of things if they want to. The inventor of behavioral economics and one of the nation's best legal minds have produced the manifesto for a revolution in practice and policy. Nudge won't nudge you—it will knock you off your feet."—Daniel Gilbert, professor of psychology, Harvard University, Author of Stumbling on Happiness
(Daniel Gilbert)

“This is an engaging, informative, and thoroughly delightful book. Thaler and Sunstein provide important lessons for structuring social policies so that people still have complete choice over their own actions, but are gently nudged to do what is in their own best interests. Well done.”—Don Norman, Northwestern University, Author of The Design of Everyday Things and The Design of Future Things
(Don Norman)

“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 The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game and Liar's Poker
(Michael Lewis)

"Two University of Chicago professors sketch a new approach to public policy that takes into account the odd realities of human behavior, like the deep and unthinking tendency to conform. Even in areas—like energy consumption—where conformity is irrelevant. Thaler has documented the ways people act illogically."—Barbara Kiviat, Time
(Barbara Kiviat Time 2008-04-03)

"Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein's Nudge is a wonderful book: more fun than any important book has a right to be—and yet it is truly both."—Roger Lowenstein, author of When Genius Failed
(Roger Lowenstein)

"A manifesto for using the recent behavioral research to help people, as well as government agencies, companies and charities, make better decisions."—David Leonhardt, The New York Times Magazine
(David Leonhardt The New York Times Magazine)

“How often do you read a book that is both important and amusing, both practical and deep? This gem of a book presents the best idea that has come out of behavioral economics. It is a must-read for anyone who wants to see both our minds and our society working better. It will improve your decisions and it will make the world a better place.”—Daniel Kahneman, Princeton University, Nobel Laureate in Economics
(Daniel Kahneman)

"Engaging, enlightening."—George Scialabba, Boston Sunday Globe
(George Scialabba Boston Sunday Globe 2008-05-18)

"The suggestions in Nudge provide fascinating examples of how tiny changes in context can cue radically different behaviour. Awareness of these cues empowers consumers, voters and decision-makers."—Rebecca Walberg, National Post
(Rebecca Walberg National Post 2008-06-21)

"An essential read . . . an entertaining book. . . . The book isn't only humorous, it's loaded with good ideas that financial-service executives, policy makers, Wall Street mavens, and all savers can use."—John F. Wasik, Boston Globe
(John F. Wasik Boston Globe 2008-07-22)

From the Author

A conversation with Richard Thaler & Cass Sunstein

 

Q: What do you mean by "nudge" and why do people sometimes need to be nudged? 

A: By a nudge we mean anything that influences our choices. A school cafeteria might try to nudge kids toward good diets by putting the healthiest foods at front. We think that it's time for institutions, including government, to become much more user-friendly by enlisting the science of choice to make life easier for people and by gentling nudging them in directions that will make their lives better.

 

Q: You discuss tricks our minds play on us, and biases we have. What are some of those? 

A: As with visual or optical illusions, our minds can play tricks on us. For example, we are very sensitive to the way choices are described or "framed." A medical treatment can be made more or less attractive depending on whether the outcomes are described in terms of the chances of survival or the chances of death, even though these are, of course, equivalent.

 

Q: What are some of the situations where nudges can make a difference?

A: Well, to name just a few: better investments for everyone, more savings for retirement, less obesity, more charitable giving, a cleaner planet, and an improved educational system. We could easily make people both wealthier and healthier by devising friendlier choice environments, or architectures.

 

Q: Can you describe a nudge that is now being used successfully? 

A: One example is 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 the employee gets a raise. This plan has more than tripled saving rates in some firms, and is now offered by thousands of employers.

 

Q: You are very adamant about allowing people to have choice, even though they may make bad ones. But if we know what's best for people, why just nudge? Why not push and shove? 

A: Those who are in position to shape our decisions can overreach or make mistakes, and freedom of choice is a safeguard to that. One of our goals in writing this book is to show that it is possible to help people make better choices and retain or even expand freedom. If people have their own ideas about what to eat and drink, and how to invest their money, they should be allowed to do so.

About the Author

Richard H. Thaler is the Ralph and Dorothy Keller Distinguished Service Professor of Behavioral Science and Economics and the director of the Center for Decision Research at the University of Chicago’s Graduate School of Business. Cass R. Sunstein  is Karl N. Llewellyn Distinguished Service Professor of Jurisprudence, University of Chicago Law School and Departent of Political Science.

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