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The Power of the Nudge: A Conversation with Cass Sunstein at Discovery 2014

by Responsible Gambling Council | Feb 14, 2014 02:26 PM

Newscan (Vol. 16, Issue 6)

When you’re in the business of changing behaviour—and anyone who sells, regulates, counsels, teaches, or parents is—there are basically two approaches:

  1. Take away the options you don’t want people to have
  2. Explain why one option is best, and let them decide

Regulate or educate

Both approaches have their merits but they do pit people against each other, politically and ideologically. One side cries, “Nanny state!” while the other says, “Protect the vulnerable!” The result is a social pendulum that swings slowly—and expensively—from one approach to the other.

What if there’s a third approach?

And it’s a simple one? A gentle nudge can help people make better decisions, as Cass Sunstein, along with coauthor Richard Thaler, wrote in their book Nudge.

Instead of taking away people’s freedom to choose, use our knowledge of human psychology to build a better choice architecture—and people will choose better. Think of a cafeteria. Put healthier foods at eye level and add more recycling bins. People will eat better and recycle more. And you didn’t have to ban candy or get rid of garbage cans.

It’s a simple idea, with a massively wide range of applications. At Discovery 2014, Cass Sunstein will show you just how simple—and radical—the idea really is.

“A concept that captures the world’s imagination—as Nudge has—doesn’t come along every day,” says Jon Kelly, CEO of RGC, “and having the chance to dig into it with one of its originators is even rarer. Discovery participants will to get to ask some challenging and stimulating questions.”

And it’s not just an idea anymore

Since the book’s publication in 2008, the world has taken notice. Governments are investigating how they can nudge people toward better choices, like the Behavioural Insights Team in the U.K., often called a “Nudge Unit,” that the Canadian government has been studying.

Sound too good to be true?

Skeptics welcome! Join Cass, Jon and the rest of the Discovery 2014 participants for an open conversation on the second morning of the conference in downtown Toronto, April 29 to May 1.

In addition to co-authoring Nudge and other books, Cass Sunstein is a professor of behavioural economics and public policy at Harvard Law School and the former administrator of the White House’s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs.