On the Concept of Nudging: Its Coherence and Applicability?

Mads Wistrup Freund

Student thesis: Master thesis


The practice of nudging has attracted attention from researchers, policymakers, and practitioners alike. The contemporary interest in nudging has sparked demands for a clearer examination of the conditions under which nudging and other behavioral methods can be used efficiently and acceptable. There are several unresolved questions which may have contributed to heated political and scientific discussions, especially heated is the ethical discussion of applying nudging in the public policy domain. This thesis concentrate on the philosophical premises nudges are built on. It is argued that the model is philosophically problematic. Different interventions might operate through various logics that threaten not only effectiveness but also representativeness and ethical ends. This thesis aruges that the next step in advancing the acceptability nudging requires a clarification. The thesis investigates the internal logic of this practice by exploring the expositions and implications within the literature on nudging in public policy, by specifically exploring its origins in behavioral economics; its impact on welfare policy; and ethical implications. This analysis is guided by Foucaults concept of veridiction and understanding of power. This thesis concludes that nudging would be more acceptable if it clarified that humans, in these models, are treated as defective econs. Choice architects are trying to represent the complex reality of human judgment and decision-making with the inclusion of psychology in a highly simplified normative modeling framework, to increase individuals tendency to act according to neoclassical rational choice models. Advancing research in nudging is necessary to distill the value of nudging interventions and equally important to provide tangible cases to debates such as ethical appropriateness, effectiveness, and public approval.

EducationsMsc in Business Administration and Philosophy, (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
Publication date2017
Number of pages77
SupervisorsMarius Gudmand-Høyer