Topic 3 Induce good choices – nudge

“A nudge, as we will use the term, is any aspect of the choice architecture that alters people’s behavior in a predictable way without forbidding any options or significantly changing their economic incentives. To count as a mere nudge, the intervention must be easy and cheap to avoid. Nudges are not mandates. Putting fruit at eye level counts as a nudge. Banning junk food does not.”

-By ” Richard Thaler -Nobel Prize in economic science for his contribution to behavioral economics- and Harvard Law School Professor Cass R. Sunstein”

Our decisions depend on our system of thought. We have 2 systems of thought, one is instinctive, the automatic system, and the other is self-conscious, the reflective one. Nudge theory proposes to use the underlying subconscious processes influencing our decision making to “nudge” individuals in the direction that would be best for their well-being.

To Nudge: To send a message to our automatic system, to make our life easier, to help us to take the right decision for us or for the community.

Why should we need help to make good choices? There are, of course, areas where we are experts, trained and informed, but for others we cannot have an informed opinion.

Individuals tend to conform to the opinion of the group – even when the group is obviously wrong; this is the “compliance effect”.

There are 2 reasons for this:

  1. The information is conveyed by the responses of others;
  2. Social conformation: The peer pressure and the desire not to be the object of group disapproval.

Individuals tend to be lazy. If the default option is OK, they will take it, unless there is a real interest to take option B. They will make a passive choice instead of choosing actively another option.

This video explains in a short way how to induce people to make some choices without giving them any obligation, telling them what they have to do or frightening them.

These 2 pictures show you the difference between information and nudge. Both communication tools aim you to reuse towels


Save our planet

A towel hanging up means
“I will use it again”
A towel on the floor means
“Please exchange”.

Thank you for helping us
conserve our Earth resources!

Nudge using social conformation as compliance effect

Read About How Hotels Get You To Reuse Towels.

Look at these 2 videos, here are easy and cheap ways to spare food and to induce people to eat healthier.

If a local drink is available from a jar on the counter and soda cans are placed behind the counter and are available only on request, the relative soda consumption will decrease. This is what is called a nudge based on the default option.


“Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam. There the authorities have etched the image of a black housefly into each urinal. It seems that men usually do not pay much attention to where they aim, which can create a bit of a mess, but if they see a target, attention and therefore accuracy are much increased.” (Thaler and Sunstein, 2008)

Mr. Kieboom, an economist, directs Schiphol’s own building expansion. His staff conducted fly-in-urinal trials and found that etchings reduce spillage by 80%.

Another example of social conformation used as compliance effect:

  • Which one do you prefer?
  • Why?

Source (second):
Source (third):

Source : save-paper.pdf (

Look how to build a nudge and what is the customer response:

This is not directly linked to environmental benefits, but it sounds pretty appealing to take the stairs, isn’t it? Hope it will give you ideas for other nudges!


In 2016 was conducted a study on the impact on the guest experience of initiatives promoting water efficient behaviour in small/medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) offering tourism accommodation. Questionnaires were administered to potential guests to better understand their water use behaviour, explore how initiatives might impact their accommodation experience, and to assess guest reactions to social marketing messages. Here you can see the tested initiatives:

The messages used to test the initiatives:

Results also showed guests reported the highest positive impact on their experience from those initiatives SMEs stated were not viable due to financial and logistical limitations. Specifically, money-off vouchers and donations to charity were reported to have the greatest positive impact. However, two initiatives deemed more appropriate by participating SMEs (feedback cards and initial welcome introduction) represented more modestly acceptable opportunities for engaging the “overt users” at low cost to the business.