The nudge unit has been busy, I see. The latest wheeze is to encourage smokeless fags – or electronic cigarettes – in order to nudge smokers into giving up. Better not tell Dick Puddlecote or Leggy, those buggers smoke these and the real things…
This means that hmg will have to nudge the previously intractable anti-smoking lobby and its pharmaceutical backers into shifting from their erstwhile opposition to such products.
In the UK, medicines regulators have actively discouraged the development, marketing and promotion of cigarette substitutes containing nicotine because it is addictive, but they are now looking into approving such devices for use.
The cognitive dissonance is a wonder to perceive.
Anyway, not only smokers but just about everyone is to get a nudge or two – whether we are filling in forms or buying the meat and veg.
It also says making people write “This is an honest account of the truth” on insurance claims forms could cut fraud.
The French have something similar on their official forms – basically a confirmation that you have read, understood and agreed with the contents. Everyone scribbles it off and no one takes any real notice. I mean, do they really think that someone about to engage in insurance fraud is going to be put off making the claim because they have to write a few lines stating that their claim is honest? Really?
But critics of the unit’s activities have suggested there is little evidence that such “nudges” actually work.
My money is on the critics frankly. Here’s a wee list of some of the nudges being proposed – nudges that would irritate me enough to do precisely the opposite to what they want:
- making drinkers more aware of how much alcohol others consume – on the basis that most people overestimate how much others drink
- removing alcohol from prominent positions at the front of supermarkets – Asda, Morrisons and Waitrose have already done so
- redesigning hospital prescription charts to cut down on errors due to incorrect completion and bad handwriting
- providing upfront rewards like shopping vouchers or council tax holidays to encourage household energy efficiency improvements – rafter than stressing the longer-term gains to be made
- altering letters to tax debtors to inform them that the majority of people in their area have already paid up and reminding them of the link between tax and local services – trials showed a 15% improvement in response rates
- placing declarations of honesty at the start of forms, not the end, to “prime” respondents to tell the truth, or requiring them to write out, by hand, an “honesty sentence”
Some MPs reckon that the half million quid a year this nonsense is costing us is a waste. Ya reckon?