People Prefer System 2 Nudges (Kind Of)

38 Pages Posted: 14 Feb 2016 Last revised: 19 Jul 2016

See all articles by Cass R. Sunstein

Cass R. Sunstein

Harvard Law School; Harvard University - Harvard Kennedy School (HKS)

Date Written: July 19, 2016

Abstract

In the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, and many other nations, those involved in law and policy have been exploring choice-preserving approaches, or “nudges,” informed by behavioral science and with the purpose of promoting important public policy goals, such as improved health and safety. But there is a large and insufficiently explored difference between System 1 nudges, which target or benefit from automatic processing, and System 2 nudges, which target or benefit from deliberative processing. Graphic warnings and default rules are System 1 nudges; statistical information and factual disclosures are System 2 nudges. On philosophical grounds, it might seem tempting to prefer System 2 nudges, on the assumption that they show greater respect for individual dignity and promote individual agency. A nationally representative survey in the United States finds evidence that in important contexts, majorities do indeed prefer System 2 nudges. At the same time, that preference is not fixed and firm. If people are asked to assume that the System 1 nudge is significantly more effective, then large numbers of them will move in its direction. In a range of contexts, Republicans, Democrats, and independents show surprisingly similar responses. The survey findings, and an accompanying normative analysis, offer lessons for those involved in law and policy who are choosing between System 1 nudges and System 2 nudges.

Keywords: default rules, behavioral economics

JEL Classification: D03, D10, D11, D18, D60, D80, K0, K2

Suggested Citation

Sunstein, Cass R., People Prefer System 2 Nudges (Kind Of) (July 19, 2016). Duke Law Journal, Vol. 66, 2016. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2731868 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2731868

Cass R. Sunstein (Contact Author)

Harvard Law School ( email )

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Areeda Hall 225
Cambridge, MA 02138
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617-496-2291 (Phone)

Harvard University - Harvard Kennedy School (HKS) ( email )

79 John F. Kennedy Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

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