So now it’s in paperback. But what is it all about?
Thaler and Sunstein’s Nudge – where economics meets behavioural psychology – has become a prime reader for political communicators, having been linked to Obama’s presidential campaign and the UK’s conservatives. However, the ‘nudge’ is nothing new, as its authors admit.
As the Guardian handily explained back in mid-2008, rather than leave people to their own devices, or give them dos and don’ts, Thaler and other behavioural economists want to highlight the best option, while still leaving all the bad ones open. They argue it’s better for everyone to be automatically enrolled in a pension scheme (or more controversially for organ donation), but give them an opt-out. Or they may want a shop to put real oranges by the checkout rather than chocolate versions.
Now, if communication is defined as the response you get, then using the liberal paternalist methods of nudge to ‘persuade’ people to do the right thing, is the way ahead. The pragmatics amongst us will see much in the nudge. And the age-old methods of ‘nudge’, now comprehensively explained, are appearing across the communications spectrum. The applications in public diplomacy, foreign policy communications, information operations and media operations have yet to be fully explored. However, CB3 will be shaking up the cerebral matter to venture into nation-building nudging.
It’s not for everyone – Gordon Brown’s not too keen – but it’s definately got some traction. After all, it’s now in paperback, and being advertised like a common-or-garden Ian Rankin thriller (see the posters on the London Underground). Someone’s giving Nudge a ‘nudge’.