Article, Business

Nudging is now officially embraced by US federal government to change human behaviors. After
reading the article below, please engage in debate by addressing the following questions:
 why do you think people need to be nudged?
 do we all need some nudges in our daily lives? can you give an example of nudging yourself for
better outcome?
 do you consider use of nudges as manipulation or guidance?
 as a manager of a company, how would you use nudges to improve productivity of your
employees?
 would you recommend establishing ministry of nudges in Saudi Arabia? if you were going to be
appointed as the Ministry of Nudges, how would you use nudges?
Obama's Nudge Brigade: White House
Embraces Behavioral Sciences To
Improve Government
Donald Marron,CONTRIBUTOR
Behavioral “nudges” can increase college enrollment by low-income students, boost health
insurance take up, encourage federal workers to save for retirement, cut delinquencies on student
loans, reduce vendor fraud, and save paper, according to the first annual report of the White
House’s “nudge” unit.
President Obama established the unit—officially known as the Social and Behavioral Sciences Team
(SBST)—to use insights from psychology, behavioral economics, and other decision sciences to
improve federal programs and operations. Those social sciences increasingly appreciate what
regular folks have long known: people are imperfect. We procrastinate. We avoid making choices.
We get confused and discouraged by complex forms. We forget to do things. We sometimes lack the
energy to weigh decisions thoroughly, so we act based on what we think our peers do or how
choices are framed. And we sometimes cut corners when we think no one is looking.
Changing how people engage with the choices they face—“nudging” them—can reduce those
imperfections and substantially affect their decisions. The SBST is exploring how that insight can
improve government activities. To date, it’s completed more than 15 pilots exploring such questions
as:
 Can prompted choice and sending reminders increase service-member participation in
employee retirement plans? Yes.

o Can personalized text messages reduce “summer melt,” the failure to enroll of low-income
students accepted to colleges? Yes.

 Can reminder emails reduce student loan delinquencies? Yes, modestly.
 Can a simple change to a form reduce vendor low-balling of the fees they owe the government?
Yes, a bit.
 Can redesigning a collection letter increase debt recovery? No, at least not the letter that SBST
tested.

o Can notifying doctors that they are especially high prescribers of controlled substances
reduce inappropriate prescriptions in Medicare? No, but SBST is trying new notifications.
 Can a pop-up box get employees to print double-sided rather than single-sided? Yes.
These examples run the gamut from the life-changing to the almost trivial. But they illustrate a
common theme: details matter. Policy debates usually focus on high-level issues. Should health
insurance be offered on exchanges? Should student loan repayments be limited as a share of a
borrower’s income? But after such issues are settled, their impact depends on how policies are
implemented. The nitty-gritty of designing forms, deciding how and when to prompt people, and
framing and communicating options really matter.
The SBST’s first year also demonstrates the importance of testing new approaches before rolling
them out at large scale. It isn’t enough to recognize that particular nudges can influence people.
Where possible, agencies should test different approaches to see how they work in specific
circumstances. Letters comparing your behavior to your peers’ may encourage people to conserve
electricity and pay their taxes, for example, but as one pilot found, that doesn’t mean that they will
get doctors to prescribe fewer opioids.
On Tuesday, President Obama signed an executive order making the SBST a permanent part of the
White House and directing government agencies to use behavioral sciences to improve their
programs and operations. That move is consistent with a larger, bipartisan effort to bring more
evidence to bear on the design and implementation of federal programs. The government shouldn’t
operate in the dark when there’s an opportunity to use evidence to make programs more efficient
and effective.

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