'Nudging' not effective in isolation, says House of Lords report

Year-long study by Lords sub-committee contradicts earlier government study that indicated people can be 'nudged' into giving to charity or volunteering

House of Lords
House of Lords

‘Nudging’ is unlikely to be effective in changing people’s behaviour when used in isolation, according to a House of Lords report.

Behaviour Change, a year-long investigation by the House of Lords Science and Technology Committee, found that regulatory measures would be needed to change behaviour enough to make a difference to society.

It contradicts an earlier report produced for the Communities and Local Government department that suggested people could be ‘nudged’ into giving to charity or volunteering.

The theory of nudging comes from the book Nudge, by Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein. Thaler is working with the Behavioural Insights Team, which is based at the Cabinet Office and is examining issues such as promoting charitable giving.

Behaviour Change examined how successful nudging had been in changing people’s behaviour in relation to obesity. It looked at food labelling and restrictions on advertising, and asked how it was possible to change the choices people make about travel in order to reduce car use.

Baroness Neuberger, chair of the Lords sub-committee that carried out the review, said: "There are all manner of things that the government wants us to do, but how can it get us to do them? It won’t be easy and this inquiry has shown that it certainly won’t be achieved through using nudges, or any other sort of intervention, in isolation.

"The government needs to be braver about mixing and matching policy measures, using both incentives and disincentives to bring about change. They must also get much better at evaluating the measures they put in place."

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