Monday, 26 June 2017

Reading Over My Shoulder: The Nudge

As of today I'd like to start sharing some remarkable articles I come across on the internet. Some of these I collect for future writings. Others are filed away for future reference. I'll try and comment on some of them.

Source: WINK website

Nudged into appropriate choices
In Dagblad van het Noorden, a Groningen, Netherlands daily newspaper, I read an article about new research by Canadian psychologist Tracy Cheung. She wanted to know how consumers can be persuaded into healthier choices. How can people's automatic and subconscious decisions be influenced through psychological tricks, or: how can they be 'nudged'. One definition given in the article was: guiding people into buying 'appropriate' products through behaviouristic psychology. Supermarkets and other chains are very keen to find out more about this technology.

Next to the article, an international 'nudge' conference in Utrecht, the Netherlands was mentioned: WINK. You just couldn't make it up. I checked out the programme and saw a familiar name: David Halpern was to give the keynote address. I remembered that name form the UK Column broadcasts.

UK Column has repeatedly highlighted the dangers of nudge technology in the hands of our governments. Watch this 2016 YouTube clip from the 34:20 mark:

I'd like to see David Halpern's keynote address at the WINK conference, but they haven't published any of their speeches online yet. Normally, conferences are quick to post their stars online, but not this one. Perhaps I should give them a little nudge.

Here is what the WINK conference website has to say about the technique:
The WINK project, funded by a TOP-grant from the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research, investigates the merits of nudging as a promising and innovative approach to public health and welfare. ‘Nudging’ translates insights from behavioral research on decision-making to policy-relevant individual choices in order to gently suggest desired choices without infringing upon autonomy of individuals. It is based on the understanding that individual choices are generally driven by heuristic processes to which the presentation of alternatives can be attuned. Nudging refers to a variety of techniques with which governments and other agents (‘choice architects’) may guide individual choices in order to improve decision outcomes. Nudging is based on ‘libertarian paternalism’, which respects individual free choice (libertarian) but suggest the most sensible choices to individuals (paternalistic).
And here's the rub. They claim to respect the individual's free choice, but nudge techniques appeal to the person's subconscious, manipulating his or her choices without being made aware of the deception. I consider that to be pure deception and manipulation, even if their motives are as pure as the driven snow: "Let's nudge people into healthier living"... I was not surprised to notice that the WINK conference was sponsored by Institutions for Open Societies.

Finally, let's take a look at the Nudge/Wink collocation:
'Wink wink nudge nudge' is an expression used to make someone realise an ulterior motive to [your] conversation. The winks and nudges are verbal explications of gestures people make when they want to pass on something sly. Urban Dictionary

And there you have it. Our governments are deceptive manipulators, and arrogant enough to nudge, nudge, wink, wink, display their sly intentions for all to see.

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