Obama’s nudging efforts are so far only about prodding
The White Houseâ€™s Social and Behavioral Science Team (SBST), a cross-agency effort to bring behavioral science research into the policy making process, has just published its first annual report, which covers just 15 proof-of-concept projects in this first year.
Politico’s assistant editor Danny Vinik reviewed the report on using behavioral science to shape peopleâ€™s behavior (in an article entitled “Obamaâ€™s effort to â€˜nudgeâ€™ America“) and writes that in fact it was more about prodding than nudging:
” The teamâ€™s projects were definitely a form of proddingâ€”giving people little pokes to improve their behavior in some way. But the more muscular form of â€œnudgeâ€ involves what experts call changing the â€œchoice architectureâ€â€”automatically enrolling employees in an optional 401(k), for instance, or making organ donors opt out.
Thatâ€™s largely not what the government was trying here.”
“Whatever the reason, the result is that these projects, while valuable, are less informative than they could be. The SBST teamâ€™s report showed that 13 of its projects worked; one didnâ€™t; and one was hard to tell. Thatâ€™s a good result for a small and inexpensive office. But when it comes to whether behavioral economics could offer a new tool to push Americans toward different choices in big-ticket areas like healthcareâ€”or whether Americans would actually want thatâ€”the evidence is still out.”