Digital nudges — that is, significantly behavioral interventions that use software and its user-interface design elements — are an increasingly pervasive feature of online environments that can shape people’s behavior both online (e.g. changing website cookie settings) and offline (e.g. taking a flu vaccine due to a text message reminder). While sharing many characteristics of offline behavioral interventions, digital nudges merit specific attention and analysis due to their growing ubiquity and potential potency, the opacity of their technological and behavioral mechanisms, and the central role of private actors in their implementation.
By Avishalom Tor
To advance their policy goals, governments and other organizations have been employing behavioral instruments — also known as nudges — for some time now, but the advent of digital nudges is more recent. Digital behavioral interventions are distinct from their offline counterparts in their deployment of software and its user-interface design elements and are an increasingly pervasive feature of online environments. These instruments can shape behavior online — e.g. when they encourage consumers to change their website privacy settings or to donate to a charity — as well as offline, as when people decide to take a flu vaccine at their annual medical checkup following a text message reminder from their health insurer.
Digital nudges share many features of offline behavioral interventions, yet...