Nudge examples

There are a variety of examples of how Behavioral Insights can be used to initiate behavioral changes:

Standard settings: Privacy by default

Data protection default settings use the behavioral tendency to maintain the status quo by pre-setting privacy-friendly options and only collecting personal data that is required for the respective processing purpose. If, for example, cookies are not automatically set in the browser, location data in smartphone apps are not automatically collected or user profiles on social networks are initially only visible to the user and not automatically published, this is called "privacy by default." If you do not actively change these default settings, your data remains protected. At the same time, nobody is forced to choose the data-saving variant. In experimental laboratory and field studies, the effectiveness of data protection default settings was empirically confirmed. The principle is also enshrined in the EU General Data Protection Regulation. Additionally, default settings can be applied in other areas. There are examples of promoting sustainable consumption ("green defaults") or improving retirement provisions.

Abstract information presented in a noticeable way: Consumption feedback during showering

Who knows how much water flows out of the shower every morning? Not to mention how many kilowatt hours are consumed while we are showering. To reduce energy consumption, it helps to make it visible. This is done by a small device that reports water volume, energy consumption and energy efficiency when we are showering. In this way, the person in the shower receives feedback at the right time and can adjust his or her behavior accordingly. However, the list of visual feedback applications does not end with morning showers. Other studies show that feedback on credit card usage affects how money is handled and feedback on chip consumption can change snacking habits.

First come, first served: The order of the buffet determines what comes on the plate

Food at the beginning of a buffet has a higher chance of getting on your plate than food in the middle. If the plate is filled with salad and vegetables, there is less space for meat and fries. This behavioral insight can be used to design buffets to promote healthy or environmentally friendly food choices. American behavioral scientist Brian Wansink showed in an experiment that the first three dishes in a buffet make up two-thirds of the total that people chose.

It's all in the framing: Requests with loss frames are more likely to be followed than those with gain frames

One way for appeals to actually change behavior is to frame them differently. For example, a call for blood donations works better if it focuses on preventing deaths ("loss frame") rather than emphasizing that it saves lives ("gain frame"). The information remains the same, but the presentation changes.

Social norms: What's everyone else doing?

The notice in the hotel room stating that 75 percent of the guests reuse their towels several times motivates people to also reuse their towels more than just the mere request. In a field study, this social norm increased towel reuse by 9 percent. This is because social norms are an important source of information for people's own behavior. Interventions that deliberately communicate positive social norms not only work in hotels but also at work, at home or in nature.

Further examples of the use of nudges to promote sustainable consumption can be found in our publikation for the Umweltbundesamt (German Environmental Protection Agency). Nudges in the area of simplified data privacy statements were examined as part of a research project for the German Federal Ministry of Justice and Consumer Protection.