Nudge theory (or liberal paternalism theory), according to Wikipedia, is a concept from the behavioral sciences, political theory and economics, derived from industrial design practices, that argues that indirect suggestions can, without force, influence the motivations, incentives and decision-making of groups and individuals, at least as effectively if not more effectively than direct instruction, legislation or enforcement.
Nudge acts at the behavioral level to make us make the “right decisions” by changing our environment. This approach manifests itself in its literal sense only in cosmetic forms that appear painless. For example, we try to modify the decision making of passers-by in an airport by painting the stairs differently, or we place a fly in the center of a urinal so that the users aim in the right direction…
This manifestation seems quite superficial, yet one could say that the spirit of the times is greatly influenced by this concept. If you were to observe your most trivial actions from morning to night, you would realize that they are not totally random. These daily actions are in fact for some of them skilfully orchestrated by companies that make nudge a choice ally in their sales strategy.
The main place where this nudge spirit manifests itself is on the web. When we surf the net, we are encouraged to click here and there, and most of the time, we make these choices unconsciously. The use of colors, the insistence with which we are asked the same question, the promise of a possible gain or reduction are all examples of virtual nudge. In everyday life, nudge can be present on our way to the office as well as on the corner of the street when we go shopping. It can be the result of a governmental, municipal or private initiative.
The levers with which nudge plays are multiple, they are most often psychological, here are some examples:
the lure of gain
the search for play
The changes are usually minimal. However, when put together, it is a whole part of our existence that is modified by the simple fact that these changes create behavioral automatisms that manage to wire our brain differently.
The spirit of nudge allows for a silent transformation that is not necessarily in our interest, but rather in the interest of companies and governments, who are at the origin of these processes.