So, I was clearly so keen to read this book, that I ended up with it both in paperback and Kindle! This book offers really interesting insights into the government’s Behavioural Insights Team, set up in 2010 on a largely experimental basis, designed to understand people’s behaviours and ‘nudge’ them towards healthier behaviours, and crucially, for governmental support, those that bring forward millions of £s into the Treasury.
The first test to provide results was to test whether adding the single sentence “most people pay their tax on time” would increase repayment rates. It did, to the tune of tens of millions of £s. The unit set out to understand more about people’s behaviours, social norms, and consider how small changes, many of them free or very inexpensive, could improve people’s behaviour (and civic participation):
The core identification is that any changes made must be EAST: Easy, Attractive, Social and Timely. These changes appear to have been ignored by many in modern government, ignoring the softer and more subtle persuasion (hard to manage), and sought more ‘modern’, ‘rational’ and measurable forms of government. This is one of those books that feels like it brings my PhD, and my more contemporary digital work (which seems to be coalescing around belief and behaviour), together in a lot of ways… explicitly mentioned with regards to US propaganda:
A nudge therefore is more educative – it encourages and guides, rather than mandates and legislates. This was the element of wartime propaganda that fascinated me, and continues to fascinate me with regards to people’s behaviour online – how do we self-police and self-regulate according to social norms, what is seen as acceptable or valuable. I may yet end up reading BOTH versions of the book – but it gave me plenty to think about, and to potentially apply to future research!
Buy the book (Amazon)
Dr Bex Lewis is passionate about helping people engage with the digital world in a positive way, where she has more than 20 years’ experience. She is Senior Lecturer in Digital Marketing at Manchester Metropolitan University and Visiting Research Fellow at St John’s College, Durham University, with a particular interest in digital culture, persuasion and attitudinal change, especially how this affects the third sector, including faith organisations, and, after her breast cancer diagnosis in 2017, has started to research social media and cancer. Trained as a mass communications historian, she has written the original history of the poster Keep Calm and Carry On: The Truth Behind the Poster (Imperial War Museum, 2017), drawing upon her PhD research. She is Director of social media consultancy Digital Fingerprint, and author of Raising Children in a Digital Age: Enjoying the Best, Avoiding the Worst (Lion Hudson, 2014; second edition in process) as well as a number of book chapters, and regularly judges digital awards. She has a strong media presence, with her expertise featured in a wide range of publications and programmes, including national, international and specialist TV, radio and press, and can be found all over social media, typically as @drbexl.