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Lords committee unimpressed with government patronage of ‘nudge’ theory

The government must collect more evidence on the so-called “nudge” theory of influencing human behaviour before applying it to more public policy, a report by the House of Lords Science and Technology Committee has concluded.

The report, published by the Lords Science and Technology Committee on 19 July, says insufficient research is being conducted on how knowledge about influencing behaviour can be effectively translated into policies. This is in spite of increased interest in behavioural sciences across government, dating back to when Tony Blair was Prime Minister.

Nudge theory was popularised by Chicago-based economist Richard Thaler in his book ‘Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness’. It relates to the use of implicit techniques to encourage certain behaviours or discourage others.

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