Discussion Paper

No. 2016-18 | April 28, 2016
Nudging as a New “Soft” Policy Tool – An Assessment of the Definitional Scope of Nudges, Practical Implementation Possibilities and Their Effectiveness
(Submitted for Survey and Overview)


The idea of nudging has become increasingly popular in both academic and political circles. There are, however, many different interpretations of the term ‘nudge’ which blurs its scope. In this paper, the authors focus on the conceptualization of nudges and its functionality in reference to the Dual Process models. Further, they discuss the potential applications of nudging as an important extension of the current policy toolkit. In particular, the authors assess the potential of nudges to support habit formation and enhance the performance of the ‘classical’ economic instruments when used in the so-called instrument mix.

JEL Classification

A12 D03 D04 D80 K20 Q58

Cite As

Gabriela Michalek, Georg Meran, Reimund Schwarze, and Özgür Yildiz (2016). Nudging as a New “Soft” Policy Tool – An Assessment of the Definitional Scope of Nudges, Practical Implementation Possibilities and Their Effectiveness. Economics Discussion Papers, No 2016-18, Kiel Institute for the World Economy. http://www.economics-ejournal.org/economics/discussionpapers/2016-18


Comments and Questions

Anonymous - Spillovers
May 09, 2016 - 19:51

For their discussion of behavioral spillovers, the authors may want to have a look at Dolan and Galizzi's "Like ripples on a pond" (http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0167487014001068).

Anonymous - Referee Report 1
May 30, 2016 - 09:33

see attached file

Reimund Schwarze - Reply to Referee Report 1
June 13, 2016 - 09:15

see attached file

Anonymous - Invited Reader Comment
May 31, 2016 - 11:19

The authors review a number of articles related to various forms of nudging.

On page 23, at the begin of their "Summary and conclusion", they write, "The meta-analysis presented in this paper ... ". This is deceptive advertising. The word "meta-analysis" has -- at least for now -- ...[more]

... a very precise meaning and what the author provide here is not some such analysis.

The authors present a review of articles pertaining to the topic. It is completely unclear how the articles that were reviewed got selected which a good review ought to specify.

It is also very hard to figure out the narrative and the lessons to draw from it.

Writing "surveys", or -- more ambitious -- "assessments" of large areas, is an art. Someone is willing to guide us through the thicket of typically contradictory evidence to summarize what we know and what we do not know. There are too many "could", "might", "can", "may" formulations in this paper for us be guided through the nudging thicket. The present paper is thus not a good example of a useful review/assessment, at least for me. The major thing I got out of it were a few references that I did not know and that made me curious to read up on.

Anonymous - Referee Report 2
August 02, 2016 - 10:00

Report on “Nudging as a new “soft” policy tool - An assessment of the definitional scope of nudges, practical implementation possibilities and their effectiveness”
The subject matter of this paper is not about well settled scientific insights but about research in progress. Hence, the authors face an almost exponentially increasing ...[more]

... literature about the topic they choose. Obviously they do not attempt to systematize this literature by a kind of meta-study: neither a clear-cut objective, nor a comprehensive classification of the literature at stake, nor a systematic assessment of the outcome of case studies can be found in the paper. But the authors also miss the opportunity to contribute to the literature by clarifying a selected specific topic - either in conceptual or in empirical terms. Rather, they deliver a multitude of narratives about this literature without convincing general conclusions.
In the present form the paper is not publishable. I recommend to transform it either into an appropriate meta-study or into a conceptually or empirically oriented deeper analysis of a specific topic.

Reimund Schwarze - Reply to Referee Report 2
August 15, 2016 - 07:59

see attached file