Table of Contents

Nudging Humans

Brett M. Frischmann, Villanova University - School of Law


NEUROECONOMICS eJOURNAL

"Nudging Humans" Free Download

BRETT M. FRISCHMANN, Villanova University - School of Law
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Behavioral data can and should inform the design of private and public choice architectures. Choice architects should steer people toward outcomes that make them better off (according to their own interests, not the choice architects’) but leave it to the people being nudged to choose for themselves. Libertarian paternalism can and should provide ethical constraints on choice architects. These are the foundational principles of nudging, the ascendant social engineering agenda pioneered by Nobel Prize winning economist Richard Thaler and Harvard law professor Cass Sunstein.

The foundation bears tremendous weight. Nudging permeates private and public institutions worldwide. It creeps into the design of an incredible number of human-computer interfaces and affects billions of choices daily. Yet the foundation has deep cracks.

This critique of nudging exposes those hidden fissures. It aims at the underlying theory and agenda, rather than one nudge or another, because that is where micro meets macro, where dynamic longitudinal impacts on individuals and society need to be considered. Nudging theorists and practitioners need to better account for the longitudinal effects of nudging on the humans being nudged, including malleable beliefs and preferences as well as various capabilities essential to human flourishing. The article develops two novel and powerful criticisms of nudging, one focused on nudge creep and another based on normative myopia. It explores these fundamental flaws in the nudge agenda theoretically and through various examples and case studies, including electronic contracting, activity tracking in schools, and geolocation tracking controls on an iPhone.

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About this eJournal

This eJournal distributes working and accepted paper abstracts focused on research where economic outcomes are the product of many individual decisions, constrained by scarcity, and equilibrium forces that simultaneously shape a person's social networks and the institutionally defined rules of the game. Decisions are made by computations in the brain which produce action-choices that directly affect the homeostatic wellbeing of the individual and choices that indirectly change wellbeing by changing an individual's future constraints, the scope of their social networks, and their message sending rights within the institutions they participate. Neuroeconomics broadly speaking is interested in the study of these computations and the resulting choices they produce. This includes experiments that attempt to understand the mechanisms of neuronal computations that produce action-choices, theories which predict how neuronal computations in socio-economic environments produce decisions, outcomes and wellbeing, and policy which use our understanding of neuoroeconomic behavior to either build or defend better solutions to societal problems.

Editors: Michael C. Jensen, Harvard University, and Kevin A. McCabe, George Mason University

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ERN SUBJECT MATTER EJOURNALS

MICHAEL C. JENSEN
Harvard Business School, SSRN, National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER), European Corporate Governance Institute (ECGI), Harvard University - Accounting & Control Unit
Email: mjensen@hbs.edu

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Advisory Board

Neuroeconomics eJournal

ANDREW W. LO
Harris & Harris Group Professor, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Sloan School of Management, National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER), Principal Investigator, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL)

P. READ MONTAGUE
Professor, Baylor University - Department of Neuroscience

VERNON L. SMITH
Professor of Economics and Law, Chapman University - Economic Science Institute, Chapman University School of Law