Have you ever gone shopping for a particular item, and after scanning shelf after shelf of virtually indistinguishable options, you throw the box bearing the “Energy Star” logo in your cart, even though it may be the most expensive choice?
You’ve just been nudged.
Seeing that logo made you assume that by purchasing that particular product, you would be doing your part to help the environment. And that feels good. This is precisely the idea behind Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein’s book, Nudge: Improving Decisions about Health, Wealth and Happiness. They touch on the environment, as well as other hot topics like money and health, and how we can be nudged – and nudge others – into making better decisions to save the planet and ourselves.
For busy readers of this blog, I would suggest reading the first part of the book that highlights the main points and establishes some of the terminology Thaler and Sunstein uses throughout (such as “choice architecture”, which refers to how the design or context of an object or place can nudge people into making certain choices and “Libertarian Paternalism,” that is, preserving the liberty to choose) and then skip ahead to chapter 12, “Saving the Planet."
This may also enable you to skip over what I found to be the most annoying part of Nudge, which is the continuous use of Homer Simpson as the model of bad decision-making. Other than that, I would recommended this book to those interested in gaining a better understanding of why humans—whether they be our customers, employees or shareholders—make poor choices and ways that we can be nudged into making better decisions for ourselves and the planet.