What can Neuroscience Contribute to the Debate Over Nudging?

Review of Philosophy and Psychology 6 (3):469-479 (2015)
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Abstract

Strategies for improving individual decision making have attracted attention from a range of disciplines. Surprisingly, neuroscience has been largely absent from this conversation, despite the fact that it has recently begun illuminating the neural bases of how and why we make decisions, and is poised for further such advances. Here we address empirical and normative questions about “nudging” through the lens of neuroscience. We suggest that the neuroscience of decision making can provide a framework for understanding how nudges work, and how they can be improved. Towards this end, we first examine how nudges can be incorporated into a leading model of decision making supported by neurobiological data, and use the model to make predictions about the relative effectiveness of different classes of nudges. We then use the model to demonstrate how nudges can both infringe upon and promote autonomy. Finally, we explore the normative implications of the converging consensus from neuroscience and related fields that many everyday decisions are susceptible to covert external influences

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Peter B. Reiner
University of British Columbia

References found in this work

Thinking, Fast and Slow.Daniel Kahneman - 2011 - New York: New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
Freedom of the Will and the Concept of a Person.Harry Frankfurt - 1971 - Journal of Philosophy 68 (1):5-20.
The Theory and Practice of Autonomy.Gerald Dworkin - 1988 - Cambridge University Press.
Ethics and Intuitions.Peter Singer - 2005 - The Journal of Ethics 9 (3-4):331-352.
The Normative Insignificance of Neuroscience.Selim Berker - 2009 - Philosophy and Public Affairs 37 (4):293-329.

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