Nudges are Everywhere

Nudges are things in our environment, things that impact on our senses, things that make us do stuff.

What makes the Nudge concept different from other means of affecting behaviour, is that Nudge doesn’t try to make us think differently, it simply uses things in our environment to trigger a behaviour.

So there is always a nudge in our environment that is prompting our behaviour. Like the look of the sky might cause us to take an umbrella. Or a handle on a door might make us pull rather than push. It’s not to do with our beliefs and attitudes. It’s behavioural.

Dan Ariely ran an experiment where he put an extra nudge – a lid – in the environment to affect behaviour:

Here’s an experiment that Google did recently. The M&Ms in their New York office used to be in baskets. So instead they put them in bowls with lids. The lid doesn’t require a lot of effort to lift but it reduced the number of M&Ms consumed in their New York office by 3 million a month

So Nudges are everywhere. They exist ‘in the wild’, and we can put them there ourselves. Lid on – reduce M&Ms consumption by 3 million; Lid off – increase M&Ms consumption by 3 million. It’s very simple, very powerful, and we will not often even be aware of the effect nudges are having on us.

The most common Nudge is creating a default. On a webpage this might be reading order, or in a form it will be default values. Defaults, if a user chooses not to choose, will be more chosen than non defaults.

So as choice architects, we have some power in unrealised places, especially in forms. If we are clever with the defaults, we can nudge effectively.


The webpage above, for example has a list of “Last minute deals”; clearly nudgeable. I thought it was interesting that the date was set two weeks in the future, and the default passengers were two. There are three ‘Try’ destinations. So many opportunities. I don’t know if they are designed in this case, but plenty of nudges, planned or not, on this simple page.

Designers and UX often lay out pages with information in mind. Why? Choice architects will try to design pages according to the choices we would like our users to make. Lid off? Lid on? Where’s the lid on your page or app?

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