Nudge is good in theory

Nudging people into adopting healthier lifestyles will not work on its own and the UK Government should be more prepared to use legislation as well.

So says the House of Lords science and technology committee who reported that ministers seemed to be mistaken in their use of what is known as the nudge theory.

Nudging people is about getting them to change their behaviour without necessarily banning activities, but the group said that did not mean legislation should not be used at all.

Committee chairman Baroness Neuberger said: “There are all manner of things that the government want us to do – lose weight, give up smoking, use the car less, give blood – but how can they get us to do them?

“It won’t be easy and this inquiry has shown that it certainly won’t be achieved through using nudges, or any other sort of intervention, in isolation.”

The cross-party group of peers suggested there was confusion within government over what nudging actually involved, as they had been given different definitions by officials.

The peers also said the government’s pursuit of non-regulatory steps had created an environment whereby nudge was being seen as something that did not require legislation.

But they said this was not always the case, recommending the government took steps to ensure traffic light labelling appears on food.

This contrasts with the government’s tactics to date which have been more focused on using voluntary agreements.

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