June 12, 2021

nudge or convince without coercing, how the government converted to this discipline

Since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, you have certainly followed the white lines on the ground indicating the distances to be respected in the queues or on the metro platforms. You have received the text from the government calling to download the TousAntiCovid application, specifying that “10 million French people already use it”. You have read the slogan on posters or heard on television “When you love your loved ones, you don’t get too close”.

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You may not know it, but these three examples have one thing in common: they are partly inspired by behavioral sciences, and in particular from “nudge”. The nudge? “Nudge in English: a tool helping people to make decisions that are in their best interest, without constraining them”, summarizes Eric Singler, CEO of BVA, in charge of the BVA Nudge Unit.

At the very start of the pandemic, the government information service (SIG), attached to Matignon, called on this consulting company to support it in its crisis communication. It is thus she who forged the expression ” First line ” to designate caregivers. “We had to resolve a contradiction: convince the French to confine themselves while ensuring that those in essential functions continue to go to work”, explains Eric Singler. For three months, BVA provided notes “Pro bono” to GIS. As of September 2020, they have been invoiced, as part of a contract. “Controlling the pandemic depends a lot on our behavior, respect for distancing and vaccination: this is why the nudge can be useful”, explains Mr. Singler.

This method of soft influence was theorized in the United States by the economist Richard Thaler (Nobel Prize 2017) and the lawyer Cass Sunstein, in 2008

At the crossroads of research in cognitive psychology, neuroscience and behavioral economics, this method of soft influence was theorized in the United States by the economist Richard Thaler (Nobel Prize 2017) and the lawyer Cass Sunstein, in 2008. “Their work reminds us that human beings do not always make rational decisions, in particular because of cognitive biases”, summarizes Alexandre Delaigue, economist at the University of Lille. The most common biases are the preference for the status quo (no one likes to change when it takes effort), the need to adhere to social norms, or the aversion to loss.

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