The Psychology of Nudges’ Effectiveness

Is nudging really an effective way to influence human behavior?

Organised by Studium Generale

Tue 31 March 2015 20:00

Nudges are subtle changes in the choice architecture. For example: put the healthy product in the front of the supermarket shelf. Or place clear signs ‘stairs’ in an office building. The choice is guided, but not limited. You can still buy the unhealthy food, or take the elevator. In this series we explore the effectiveness of nudges, their usability for (health-)policy, and the ethics behind their use.

Nudges are a novel and increasingly popular way to promote desired individual choices in health and sustainability issues. Nudging interventions are a promising alternative for traditional approaches that often fail because they rely on effortful decision making from the part of the individual. Many studies in behavioral change have demonstrated that most people who want to change their behavior, fail to do so not because they are not motivated for change but because they tend to forget about it at critical moments. Nudges acknowledge this human frailty and aim to make the desired choice easier. Denise de Ridder, professor of Health Psychology at Utrecht University, will discuss if nudging really is an effective way to influence human behavior. Under which circumstances do the different approaches in nudging work the best? And does this effect last in the long term?

The research of prof. De Ridder deals primarily with self-regulation processes in health behavior. She is particularly interested in how people deal with the conflicting task of striving for long-term health goals and cope with frustrations and distractions while doing so. How are they able to withstand immediate gratification of giving in to temptations and how does a future time perspective help them in keeping track of their long-term interests. As a project leader of the EU FP7 funded TEMPEST project she is also interested in the concept of self-regulatory competence as a set of skills rather than a disposition and how environmental features may assist – or compromise – how young people deal with the obesogenic environment.