13 April 2017

How Silicon Valley is (ab)using behavioral science and nudging

Be the first to share

In an extensive review of The Undoing Project: A Friendship That Changed Our Minds, the book by Michael Lewis on the psychologists Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky, Tamsin Shaw provides a deeper criticism of the field of behavioral economics. He claims that behavioral science can be used quite deliberately for the purposes of deception and manipulation, and that this has been one of its most important applications:

Behavioral scientists claim to have developed the capacity to manipulate people’s emotional lives in ways that shape their fundamental preferences, values, and desires. […] Kahneman, working with others in the field of positive psychology, has helped to establish a new subfield, hedonic psychology, which measures not just pleasure but well-being in a broader sense, in order to establish a more objective account of our condition than our subjective reflection can afford us.

This new subfield has led the way in combining research in behavioral science with “big data,” a further development that has tremendously expanded the potential applications of Kahneman and Tversky’s ideas.

The manipulation of preferences has driven the commercialization of behavioral insights, he says, and is now fundamental to the digital economy that shapes so much of our lives.

He also describes how these techniques are being used in politics and even in military confrontation.

The idea of Libertarian Paternalism, in which the tools of the new behavioral sciences remain in the hands of benign liberal mandarins, has come to seem hopelessly quaint. In a more combative and unstable environment there must clearly be greater concern about our capacity to regulate the uses of behavioral science, the robustness of the fundamental research, and the political or financial motivations of any behavioral initiatives to be employed or countered.

Shaw concludes: “It is still possible to envisage behavioral science playing a part in the great social experiment of providing the kind of public education that nurtures the critical faculties of everyone in our society. But the pressures to exploit irrationalities rather than eliminate them are great and the chaos caused by competition to exploit them is perhaps already too intractable for us to rein in.”

Tamsin Shaw is Associate Professor of European and ­Mediterranean Studies and Philosophy at NYU and the author of ­Nietzsche’s Political Skepticism.

Be the first to share
13 February 2019
Papers on behaviour, design and the circular economy
Consumer insights into the circular economy Report of stakeholder meeting, 25 October 2018, 14 pages The "Stakeholder Meeting: Consumer Insights into the Circular Economy" in Brussels on 25 October 2018, was co-organised by the Collaborating Centre on …
20 January 2019
[Book] The Age of Surveillance Capitalism
The Age of Surveillance Capitalism: The Fight for the Future at the New Frontier of Power Shoshana Zuboff Profile Books, 31 January 2019 704 pages The challenges to humanity posed by the digital future, the first detailed examination of …
22 December 2018
The tyranny of story
In this BBC Radio 4 series, British journalist John Harris examines the potency of narrative, both in the stories that define us as individuals and in those that shape our understanding of the public domain. Story …
22 December 2018
Intel anthropologist Dawn Nafus interview on the use of data and technology in medical contexts
In an age where we can collect and store (forEVER) every second of every day, how much do we truly need… to learn? To react? To do good deeds that benefit society? Assuming we champion that, …
20 November 2018
Journal of Business Anthropology devoted to design anthropology
The Journal of Business Anthropology is an Open Access journal which publishes the results of anthropological research in business organizations and business situations of all kinds. The theme of the latest issue - Vol 7, …
20 November 2018
[Book] Who can you trust?
Who can you trust? How Technology Brought Us Together and Why It Might Drive Us Apart by Rachel Botsman Public Affairs November 2017, 336 pages If you can’t trust those in charge, who can you trust? From government to business, …
19 November 2018
What are Europe’s rules for democratic artificial intelligence?
Vincenzo Tiani has written an excellent summary in Wired Italia of the recently published "Ethical Framework for a Good AI Society: Opportunities, Risks, Principles, and Recommendations", by AI4People, a task force of European experts. With the …
18 November 2018
Consumer behaviour and the circular economy
Report: Behavioural Study on Consumers’ Engagement in the Circular Economy London Economics for the European Commission – Consumers Health and Food Executive Agency (CHAFEA) 23 October 2018, 202 pages The objective of this study was to provide policy-relevant …

We are an international experience design consultancy helping companies and organisations to innovate their products, services and processes by putting people and their experiences first.

22 December 2018
Our very best wishes for 2019! / Auguri da Experientia!
4 October 2018
Bringing​ ​patients into focus at the Roche Innovation Summit

Experientia is proud to have been a key participant at the Roche Innovation Summit, held at Roche headquarters in Basel Switzerland on 19 June 2018. Themed “​Transforming the Healthcare Experience Together​”, the summit aimed to galvanize the Roche community around the future transformation of healthcare and diagnostics. With 800 attendees from Roche and Genentech global […]

13 June 2018
Invito: DesAlps design thinking workshop per la tua startup

Hai una startup? Hai mai pensato ai benefici che potrebbe trarre dal Design Thinking? Questa è l’opportunità per scoprirlo! DesAlps Workshop #2: Il Design Thinking per la tua startup! Giovedì 28 giugno 2018 – dalle 9:30 alle 17:00 @ I3P | Corso Castelfidardo 30/a, Torino —– Nell’ambito del progetto europeo DesAlps, un team di esperti […]

3 May 2018
Invito: DesAlps innovation workshop per le PMI del territorio piemontese

Experientia è lieta di invitare le piccole e medie imprese del territorio piemontese al: DesAlps Workshop #1: Il Design Thinking per le PMI Venerdì 18 maggio 2018 – dalle 9.00 alle 17.30 @ Rinascimenti Sociali | via Maria Vittoria 38, Torino Scopri i vantaggi che il Design Thinking può portare al tuo business per prepararvi […]

27 April 2018
Impact through Design – Event in Turin, Italy

(Scroll down for English) Come può il design generare impatto? In continuità con il summit International Days of Deans and Experts: Impact Through Design (Barcellona, aprile 2018) Torino ospita il primo evento dedicato alla prospettiva italiana sull’impatto generato attraverso il design in riferimento ai Sustainable Development Goals definiti dalle Nazioni Unite. Attori dell’ecosistema territoriale ed […]

26 February 2018
Designing Patient Solutions with Meaning: Review of technology and health apps for a better patient experience

Technology is radically changing the world of healthcare and acts at different levels in support of different stakeholders. There are several digital tools on the market (e.g. wearables, virtual reality, robotics, etc.), many of which work in integration with each other, for example, wearables connected to IOT applications. Experientia’s report provide an overview of some […]

See all articles