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Nudge FORGOOD – An Ethics Framework for Behavioural Policy Design

Policies aiming to influence behaviour increasingly rely on insights from behavioural sciences. Governments and other entities have adopted behavioural insights to “nudge” individuals towards better choices. Nudging has been used in various contexts, such as encouraging prompt tax payments, boosting retirement savings, and promoting environmentally friendly actions. Nudges leverage findings from psychological and behavioural sciences about decision-making in response to one’s environment. They alter the decision-making context to influence behaviour. The widespread adoption of nudging has sparked ethical discussions. These debates often revolve around the acceptability of specific nudges. However, these discussions are typically abstract, making them less accessible to practitioners who apply behavioural insights in the real world. Consequently, there is often a lack of systematic assessment of the ethics of nudging in practice. In the absence of ethical guidelines, nudging practitioners are sometimes encouraged to “nudge for good.” Despite these good intentions, the meaning of “nudge for good” may not be universally clear. As a result, ethical evaluations of specific nudges often rely on the practitioner’s moral judgment. Many nudgers aspire to nudge for good, but busy practitioners may find it challenging to address complex ethical questions about the acceptability of a given nudge.This complexity stands in contrast to the ease of designing effective nudges using behavioural science frameworks such as MINDSPACE and EAST, popularised by the UK Behavioural Insights Team. These frameworks provide memorable mnemonics, with each letter representing a behavioural science insight that practitioners can readily apply. Recognising the need for greater ease in evaluating the ethical acceptability of behaviour-change efforts, Lades and Delaney (2019) propose FORGOOD. This ethics framework synthesises the ethics of nudging debate into an accessible mnemonic, with the aim of reducing the risk of misapplication of behavioural science in applied policy contexts. FORGOOD offers a tool for considering seven core ethical dimensions when designing and implementing behavioural policies: Fairness, Openness, Respect, Goals, Opinions, other Options, and Delegation.

For more information, see: Nudge Forgood – Ethical Behavioural Policy Design – EnvEcon 2020

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