Find out how to ensure the outcomes you seek from digital service transformations deliver Nudge not Sludge.
Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein’s seminal book Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness proposed that a helpful nudge can encourage people to make better choices for themselves. The ideas launched government Behavioural Insights teams in many governments to influence citizens towards better outcomes. Thaler recently wrote a commentary in Science titled ‘Nudge not Sludge’. In it, he claimed the techniques laid out in Nudge can also be used for “less benevolent purposes” that discourage behaviour towards better choices or encourage self-defeating choices. In UX, these are called Dark Patterns.
We’ll discuss – with video illustrations – 3 vectors of Sludge from Nudge in online public service delivery:
1. Partisanship – where the outcome is manipulated to meet partisan goals, sometimes with malicious intent. Thaler’s example is of purging voter registration lists to reduce voter participation.
2. Bureaucracy – where the outcome is thwarted through organization-centred processes inherent to bureaucracy, possibly well-meaning, but devastating nonetheless.
3. Ignorance – where the outcomes are discouraged simply because of poor design by people utterly unaware of how to bring about those outcomes.