What is a nudge, then?
Think of a common lunch line in a workplace or in a school. If we order the portions so that salads are vegetables are in the front, people tend to choose more of them. They still have a freedom of choice, but the amount of healthier choices grows. This too can be a nudge. So, in other words, by changing the order of the foods in the line we make a deliberate change in the choice architecture. A choice architecture means any situation in which people make choices. It can be physical, social or even digital – the start screen of your smartphone is a choice architecture as well.
In CLIMATE NUDGE we for example develop nudges which promote cycling as a means of commuting, or which steer forest owners to choose carbon sink -fortifying forestry methods in their lands.
We’re all in it together
All the work will be done together with the relevant stakeholders. In traffic-oriented nudges we cooperate with municipalities and cities, for example. In forestry we engage forestry professionals and forest-related associations. The nudges are developed to be scalable, so they can be used in larger contexts, too.
The three-pronged evaluation process
Is it worth it? The economics of nudging
Finland as a state has made a commitment to be carbon-neutral by 2035??. To achieve this goal, many big issues need to be solved: economic steering, taxation, subsidies, use of fossil fuels and so on. In the project we will evaluate the costs of nudges and their effectiveness compared to more conventional steering method, e.g taxation. This information is very valuable to politicians and other decision-makers formulating climate policies. We have learned from earlier nudging research, that nudges are usually very cost-effective and socially acceptable, but the actual effect tends to be quite small.
Can we just push you around? The ethics of nudging
The philosophical and theoretical discussion about nudges is yet in its infancy in Finland, and even internationally it is concentrated on questions of health and well-being. Therefore, we will continuously evaluate our nudges to recognize which kind of nudges are ethically and socially acceptable to individuals and to the society. The question is far from simple. For example, in nudge research one of the common positions is that by nudging we promote choices that are good for the individual – but what happens if the individual in question doesn’t agree?
Is it good for you? The health effects of nudging
Third, we will evaluate the effects of nudges on health and well-being of people. We study what kind of health effects different ways of commuting have, how they subject you to emissions, noise and accidents and how to reduce those harmful effects. In our forest-related nudges we assess the mental health of forest owners and forestry professionals and how it changes through nudging.