The Science of Nudges

Cal is a final year student, completing their final research paper in behavioral psychology. The paper is due in 3–4 weeks. While Cal has completed their field work and research they now need to convert the same into a 1500 words paper. In order to ensure, they are on track and consistently putting in the effort, Cal has requested their friend to send them a reminder email every week till their submission date, detailing their tasks for the week. This helps Cal, set out their weekly targets and achieve them.

Like Cal, we may also have been in situations where we required some external reminders or just a push to complete tasks, reach targets or meet deadlines. What we are actually doing by asking friends, family, colleagues, peers to consistently remind us about certain tasks or goals is also called as nudging.

What is a nudge?

“A nudge, is any aspect of the choice architecture that alters people’s behavior in a predictable way without forbidding any options or significantly changing their economic incentives. To count as a mere nudge, the intervention must be easy and cheap to avoid. Nudges are not mandates. Putting fruit at eye level counts as a nudge. Banning junk food does not.” (Thaler & Sunstein 2008)

Since the 1950s, behavioral scientists, have studied human irrationality and devised ways to improve influence how employees react in the workplace.

Why do workplaces need nudges?

Here’s some examples:

A steel plant that put up posters of watching eyes to remind its employees where safety procedures were critical, saw a 35% increase in employees following safety procedures.

An organization that focused on on a newcomers potential and opportunities while on-boarding them rather than the organizations’ own PR saw a 33% increase in employee loyalty to the employer.

(Source: Lessons from corporate nudging, McKinsey & Co, 2019)

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