Thought for the month

“Contradiction is not a sign of falsity, nor the lack of contradiction the sign of truth.” Blaise Pascal, French mathematician and physicist (1623 – 62).

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Nudge Theory

Most of us need to influence the behaviour of other people at some time and adopt various approaches in order to achieve the outcomes we desire. Do we expect others to agree and follow us because we tell them; or do we expect their rational thought processes to naturally arrive at the same conclusion as ourselves? How do you manage to get someone to stop smoking or invest in blue sky research? This month has seen much comment both in the US and UK about the use of Thaler & Sunstein's Nudge Theory within political circles and its social and economic impact. Without getting lost in the "libertarian paternalism" debate, nudging involves presenting choices in a certain way. The key is in arranging the choice architecture so that individuals can be nudged in a certain way without taking away their freedom of choice.

Like many in the 1970s I was enthralled by the insane humour of Monty Python's Flying Circus and know that this resonated in other countries too, including Germany (see below). They had a rather different and perhaps less advisable take on nudging. In uncertain times it is good to laugh.

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