Customer Review

220 of 231 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting and opinionated but with some serious flaws, 3 Aug. 2009
This review is from: Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth and Happiness (Paperback)
I can't help thinking that the authors could very easily written the book in less than 5 pages. Much of it is little more than a collage of work which you can find in the likes of 'The Tipping Point' by Malcolm Gladwell (namely, the story about the Yale students who were more likely to go get vaccinated against tetanus if the brochure showed the map to the medical office) and 'Undercover Economist' and 'The Logic of Life' by Tim Harford (since most of both books rave about free markets and response to incentives) as well as many others of that 'genre'.

No new concepts are introduced in this work - okay, I hadn't heard about 'libertarian paternalism' but even that is only a new name for a very old concept - think about Milton Friedman and you're not far - and 'choice architect' is nothing but a fancy name for what designers do since forever - be it store designers, systems analysts or commercial managers.

You don't believe me? Well, here's a list of topics from the book. See if they really sound new to you:
1. Arrangement of items in a cafeteria (read: any restaurant or shop) influences the choices made by customers. Doesn't explain how, though it's perfectly obvious that it does.
2. Although 'pure' free market followers believe that perfect information will be used by people to make perfect choices, many people just can't or won't. The authors call these people 'Humans' and 'Econs' to those people who make perfect decisions.
3. Biases such as anchoring, availability, representativeness, status quo, framing (think about lawyers) and the feeling of loss being higher than if you win something.
4. Clocky is a vicious little wake-up clocks that runs around your bedroom until you get up and shut it down. This was an internet meme a long time before this book came along.
5. We are influenced by what other people around us do or think about us. I always thought this was called 'peer pressure' and see no reason to rehash it into this book as though it's something new.
6. The fact that we make terrible decisions in large part because the costs of that decision are far into the future - medical insurance, pensions, mutual funds - or because they occur very infrequently - such as buying a house or choosing your university degree.
7. If you are designing something that a lot of people will use and you want to ensure enrollment by as many people as possible just set sensible defaults and make it easy for people to change if they need to.
8. Expect mistakes by people, who are Humans, not Econs, and design whatever you need to design having in mind these mistakes. It's called usability but the authors didn't mention it. Do they ignore the existence of the concept?

I could go on, but I think you get the picture. If you're new to that genre of books that seem to cover everything under the sun (Business/Economics/Politics/Sociology/Psychology), then Nudge is all very interesting. But if, like me, you already follow the genre, you will find very little here. I suggest you borrow it from a friend, and skim it.
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Showing 1-8 of 8 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 19 Jan 2010 11:16:00 GMT
Mr. J. King says:
Thank you for a very clear and concise review. I'm a follower of the genre also, I think I'll take your advice!

In reply to an earlier post on 10 Sep 2010 11:37:38 BDT
Ampers says:
A good well-intentioned review. However, I can't help think that just about everything in this world has been done before and the value is in someone taking information that is out there, and putting it together in such a way, that it tells a story, and encourages people to follow a certain path.

Posted on 17 Nov 2011 04:54:49 GMT
Comicfan says:
I bought the book based on recommendation, but I should have read your review first. You were spot on and I wasted my money on this uninspiring book.

In reply to an earlier post on 22 Nov 2011 22:08:43 GMT
Last edited by the author on 22 Nov 2011 22:09:05 GMT
puddleshark says:
Mr Andrew Taylor:

You clearly have a point, but the problematic (and annoying) thing about this is that far too many authors do this kind of rehashing and cashing in all the time. I'd rather read the more original sources than someone jumping on a popular bandwagon (like this genre).

Mindfulness is another one - I'd rather read Buddhism than Eckhart Tolle.

Posted on 29 May 2012 10:37:05 BDT
G. Counihan says:
Norberto, I am interested to hear your comments on Outliers (Malcolm Gladwell)?


Posted on 13 Jun 2012 12:36:31 BDT
Mr T Wake says:
Thanks for this review - I was on the fence over this book, but based on what you have put here, I think I will give it a miss.

Reviews like this are excellent when it comes to making decisions and you have saved me some money here!

Posted on 21 Aug 2012 14:07:19 BDT
[Deleted by the author on 21 Aug 2012 14:08:52 BDT]

Posted on 21 Aug 2012 14:10:45 BDT
DoctorG says:
This review is correct in so far as much of what the book contains has been re-hashed by others. However, the commenter fails to realise that the authors of this book are serious researcher who have been studying the ideas they present for several decades. The idea that this book is rework of Gladwell's book is amusing. Gladwell is just a journalist (a very very good one) who draws on the scientific findings of people such as Thaler. It is Gladwell whose work is derivative. For example see Kahneman and Thaler, "Economic Analysis and the Psychology of Utility: Applications to Compensation Policy." American Economic Review 81 (1991): 341-346. This was written by Thaler with a economics nobel prize winner two decades ago! So please, no more confusing derivative popular science writers with serious scientists
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