The WINK project, funded by a TOP-grant from the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research, investigates the merits of nudging as a promising and innovative approach to public health and welfare. ‘Nudging’ translates insights from behavioral research on decision-making to policy-relevant individual choices in order to gently suggest desired choices without infringing upon autonomy of individuals. It is based on the understanding that individual choices are generally driven by heuristic processes to which the presentation of alternatives can be attuned. Nudging refers to a variety of techniques with which governments and other agents (‘choice architects’) may guide individual choices in order to improve decision outcomes. Nudging is based on ‘libertarian paternalism’, which respects individual free choice (libertarian) but suggest the most sensible choices to individuals (paternalistic). The program focuses on public health and healthy lifestyle choices. Nudging is a highly promising alternative to existing policies, as it may be more effective, less intrusive and less costly. However, systematic research is lacking that investigates the effectiveness of various nudges, their normative acceptability and practical feasibility for public policies. This research program is a systematic empirical investigation of these three issues by a multidisciplinary research team, featuring psychologists, communication, ethics and public administration.
The psychological subproject in particular examines the effectiveness of nudges in challenging contexts. Whilst previous research has yielded promising results with regard to nudges’ potential to affect behavior, most studies have been conducted in simple controlled settings with only short-term follow up. This project examines long-term effectiveness of nudges in complex settings with conflicting cues, also taking into consideration potentially important moderators of effectiveness such as consumer goals.
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