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Vocabulary

A Nudge in the Right Direction

Freedom, independence, choice-these are all good things, right? Some might even argue that these are basic human rights and that having laws that dictate behaviour clashes with our right to choose for ourselves. 2 But is there such a thing as too much choice? Yes, some say. Being free and independent requires us to make choices, and sometimes those choices can be difficult.

Let’s say you’ve decided you want to eat more healthfully. You’ve read books, blogs, and magazine articles about healthy diets and listened to news reports about what is and isn’t good for you. However, you don’t have time to carefully plan menus for meals or read food labels at the supermarket. Since you really are committed to a healthier lifestyle, a little help would come in handy, wouldn’t it? This is where a “choice architect” can help relieve some of the burdens of doing it all yourself.

Choice architects are people who organize the contexts in which consumers make decisions. For example, the person who decides the layout of your local supermarket-including which shelf the peanut butter goes on, and how the oranges are stacked-is a choice architect. So is the person who organizes where the salad and dessert bars are in your school or work cafeteria. And, believe it or not, the arrangements they adopt will influence the selections you make, according to Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein, professors at the University of Chicago

Thaler and Sunstein say that governments don’t have to impose healthier lifestyles through laws-for example, smoking bans and transfat boycotts. Rather, they say, that if given an environment created by a choice architect-one that encourages us to choose what is best-we will do the right thing. In other words, Thaler and Sunstein would like to see designs that gently push, or nudge, customers toward making healthier choices, without removing freedom of·choice. They call this idea “nudge” because it combines the idea of freedom to choose with gentle hints from choice architects, who aim to help people live longer, healthier, and happier lives.

For example, the British and Swedish governments have introduced a so-called “traffic light system” to classify foods as healthy or unhealthy. This means that shoppers can see at a glance how much fat, saturated fat, sugar, and salt each product contains simply by looking at the lights on the package. A green light indicates that the amounts of the four nutrients are healthy; yellow signals that the shopper should beware; and red means that the food is high in at least one of the four nutrients and should be eaten in moderation. The shopper is given important health information but is still free to decide whether to grab an apple or indulge in that chocolate brownie.

Moreover, Thaler and Sunstein believe that ordinary people would especially benefit from nudges when encountering any of the following five situations. When
• we have to choose now, but deal with the consequences later
• the degree of difficulty is great
• it is a decision that is made infrequently
• there is no immediate feedback
• the choice is about something unfamiliar.

Actual situations include things as ordinary as deciding which car to buy, how much insurance to get, and which charities to donate to.

But, as we all know, despite our best (602 words) intentions, we don’t always make good decisions. So, couldn’t we all benefit from a little nudge in the right direction every now and then?


KeyWords
clashes

diets

menus

labels

lifestyle

handy

architect

choice architect

relieve

consumers

layout

shelf

adopt

professors

impose

gently

gentle hints

classif

glance

beware

grab

indulge

encountering

infequently

donate

transfat

saturated

nutrient

four nutrients
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Reference:  Focus on Vocabulary
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