New Nudge, New Me

Let’s face it, human beings are inherently prejudiced. It is on the basis of this fact that the theories in Richard Thaler’s best-selling book, Nudge, are found. The idea simply put, suggests that human beings act according to certain patterns they have cultivated over the years. We are therefore unlikely to change our behaviour patterns just because we were told to do so. To take advantage of the “nudge theory”, government agencies have found ways to gently nudge consumers towards making certain choices. These could include encouraging manufacturers to produce smaller bowls of ice-cream or other unhealthy products in order to tackle obesity, rather than simply placing taxes on junk food. Another example of nudge in practice is the automatic enrolment of workers on to pension schemes rather than subjecting them to the time and effort required to opt in.

So, how can this be more applicable to us?

Last year, the internet was awash with hilarious memes illustrating the unbelievable events that unfolded over the course of 2016. My favourite compilations are here and here. Now, a new year is upon us, with people breathing sighs of relief, hoping 2017 will even better. Besides being a coping mechanism of sorts during dreadful times, social media could also potentially provide a channel for the nudge mechanism to pass through. Think about it, we all have those people on our timelines who never fail to post that green smoothie they are having for breakfast instead of the sugar-laden cereal you go for every morning. And there’s also that one person with an inspirational post about “not giving up and working hard towards our dreams”. If the people who always make the right decisions are quite literally in our faces, then chances are, we are likely to adjust our behaviour patterns as well right? This argument is obviously ignoring the amount of time we could potentially waste peering into other people’s lives instead of being productive about ours. Yet, it could also be the one thing that gets us off the couch and getting on with those new year’s resolutions.