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on 20 July 2017
Makes a few interesting points but I found the tone a bit annoying, the humour a bit cringeworthy and the content pretty thin for the number of pages it has. It could have done what it did in far fewer pages - if it had I would have given it 4 stars.
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on 27 November 2015
Virtuosity is reached when the artisan can detatch from the rulebook and be playful with the medium at hand. Thaler & Sunstein bring a great level of humour to a very complex and intangible subject matter and give you a rich understanding of how acknowledging our collective ridiculousness as humans is something we should have some fun with. *Nudge* theory helps us see the metaphorical banana skin before we slip on it in a friendly and gentle way - it doesn't hold out an arm and force us into the recovery position unnecessarily. The nudge is the benevolent nod to keep us on the rails we want to, without making the decisions for us. Such is the common thread that runs through the book of how much interference a government department should have in how they influence or manipulate our behaviours and who is is doing the interfering anyway! The lightness of touch in this book is a real delight - people who care about people, and who put themselves in the mix too. There are many serious applications for Nudging, but it's good to know that at all times these guys treat us people as people and not as numbers.
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on 21 October 2010
Like "Predictably Irrational" by Dan Ariely (which I read first), this is a work essentially about behavioural economics from an American academic stable - Thaler is a Professor of Behavioural Science and Sunstein is a Professor of Jurisprudence, both at the University of Chicago - but it is a duller read than Ariely's book, although it covers broader ground in being concerned with non-economic as well as marketplace decisions.

Thaler & Sunstein present their writing as about choice architecture which they describe as "organizing the context in which people make decisions". The choice architecture which they advocate is what they call "libertarian paternalism": the libertarian element derives from their stance that people should be free to do what they want and to opt out of undesirable arrangements if they wish, while the paternalism bit lies in their claim that it is legitimate for choice architects to try to influence people's behaviour "in a way that will make choosers better off as judged by themselves". The means of achieving this is what they characterise as a 'nudge' which is defined as "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".

What sort of 'nudges' do Thaler & Sunstein suggest? Options include simplification of choices, careful presentation of choices, provision of relevant and timely information, early and useful feedback, application of peer pressure, use of priming, application of default options, and use of incentives. The authors review the use of such 'nudges' in a whole variety of contexts including selection of a mortgage, use of a credit card, selecting a prescription drug scheme or a social security plan, choosing a pension plan and paying into it over its life, deciding how much to invest and where to do so, designing an organ donation programme, and even the privatisation (as they term it) of marriage.

In terms of when and where 'nudges' can be most useful and appropriate, they argue that 'nudges' are necessary when decisions are difficult and rare (such as choosing a mortgage or a pension arrangement), for which they do not obtain prompt feedback (such as diets and long-term investments), and when they have trouble translating aspects of the situation into terms that can be easily understood (such as the implications for the environment of consumption choices).

The main messages of this valuable work are that people do not make wholly rational choices based on what classical economics and traditional economists predict or politicians and policymakers expect, decisions can and should be shaped or influenced by a wide variety of 'nudges', and - since 'nudges' cannot be avoided - we should use choice architecture that is based on the principle of libertarian paternalism. It is a practical and pragmatic stance which should appeal to both conservatives and liberals.
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on 14 June 2018
For all the hype, I expected much more than a collection of tried and true "nudge" techniques. It seems all too easy to assemble proven methods of persuasion under a clever title, get the President to read it, Obama that is, and sell a million copies. It also doesn't hurt that Thaler recently took home a Nobel Prize for economics.
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on 15 April 2014
(This review is of the Kindle edition) When the book first emerged in the UK it was taken up by professional politicians - seeking what Winston Churchill called "the art of the possible". What one doable thing can you execute that enables a broader/deeper social phenomenon?

And the authors do it well. Clear writing, effective examples, and a gradual build towards a strong understanding of what makes societies and individuals tick, and why they make the decisions they do. I found it a good read alongside Kahneman's "Thinking, Fast and Slow" which goes more into the psychology side; Thaler and Sunstein are more practitioners. Definitely worth reading.
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on 10 December 2013
Most of the content of this book is covered elsewhere - ("Thinking, fast and slow by Daniel Kahneman" is a better read) but the book brings together some interesting points about nudges for behaviour change. As with most books about human behaviour, it's a question of looking for the interesting nuggets rather than expecting a solid block of fascinating material but it's worth a go. If I were to buy again I'd get the paper version not the Kindle one: the indexing doesn't make it easy to flick between sections and that's what you need to do when you're nugget-trawling.
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on 31 October 2014
Only four stars as yes they included some remarks in the aftermath of the financial crisis but they could have done a lot more. If one compares that with the minute detail of how to approach a pension set up that is clearly an opportunity missed. Otherwise an absolute must for the die-hards and one can understand why these two gentlemen are the leaders in their respective field.
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on 2 March 2018
Bought as a gift, the recipient is currently enjoying this book
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on 9 March 2018
This was excellent, really enjoyed it!
Found bits of it repetitive of other books I’ve read, but only because this was the original source.
2 weeks after reading I found myself applying one of the techniques without thinking about it... I’d been nudged 🙂
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on 3 February 2018
A clever and rather useful book. Lots of stories and anecdotes bring it alive and help you visualise how you might use the principles in different contexts
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