In DepthSOCIAL SCIENCES

Government ‘nudges’ prove their worth

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Science  27 May 2016:
Vol. 352, Issue 6289, pp. 1042
DOI: 10.1126/science.352.6289.1042

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Summary

Over the past 5 years, on behalf of state governments, nearly 100,000 Americans were gently manipulated by a team of social scientists. In 15 randomized, controlled trials, people in need of social services either encountered the standard application process or received a psychological nudge, in which the information was presented slightly differently—a postcard reminded them of deadlines, for example, or one choice was made easier than another. In 11 of the trials, the nudge modestly increased a person's response rate or influenced them to make financially smarter choices. The results, presented this week at a meeting in Chicago, add to the growing evidence that nudges developed by psychologists can make a real difference in the success of government programs.