Jung, J. & B. MellersAmerican attitudes toward nudges

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Janice Jung & Barbara Mellers

Release date:
January 2016

Judgment and Decision Making, Volume 11, Number 1, pages 62-74

To successfully select and implement nudges, policy makers need a psychological understanding of who opposes nudges, how they are perceived, and when alternative methods (e.g., forced choice) might work better. Using two representative samples, the authors examined four factors that influence U.S. attitudes toward nudges – types of nudges, individual dispositions, nudge perceptions, and nudge frames. Most nudges were supported, although opt-out defaults for organ donations were opposed in both samples. "System 1" nudges (e.g., defaults and sequential orderings) were viewed less favorably than "System 2" nudges (e.g., educational opportunities or reminders). System 1 nudges were perceived as more autonomy threatening, whereas System 2 nudges were viewed as more effective for better decision making and more necessary for changing behavior. People with greater empathetic concern tended to support both types of nudges and viewed them as the "right" kind of goals to have. Individualists opposed both types of nudges, and conservatives tended to oppose both types. Reactant people and those with a strong desire for control opposed System 1 nudges. To see whether framing could influence attitudes, the authors varied the description of the nudge in terms of the target (Personal vs. Societal) and the reference point for the nudge (Costs vs. Benefits). Empathetic people were more supportive when framing highlighted societal costs or benefits, and reactant people were more opposed to nudges when frames highlighted the personal costs of rejection.

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