At A Glance – Intelligent Nudging

Nudges are smarter than ever thanks to AI

Intelligent nudging is part of a new toolkit to track, predict, and influence human behaviour. There are a vast array of nudge approaches and techniques, each with the intention to direct individuals to act or think in a certain way. Today, nudges can be aided by artificial intelligence, hence the term intelligent nudging. Adding AI can make decisions about nudges better informed and potentially more efficient and effective.

Intelligent nudging has its foundations in nudge theory, which was brought to prominence by Nobel Prize winner Richard Thaler. Thaler laid out the theory in his seminal book on the subject, Nudge, coauthored with Cass Sunstein. In brief, nudge theory upholds that governments should work out a set of best preferences, and regulate the economy in favour of them. The argument proved convincing and quickly began to influence governments.

Humu, for example, use AI to search through employee surveys and identify the key factors that lead to happiness at work. The company’s Nudge Engine then sends employees emails and texts that ‘nudge’ them to make small changes. Intelligent nudging also considers employee responses, and tailors future nudges to make them more persuasive. In retail, intelligent nudging could be used to encourage shoppers to purchase specific items. Another example is healthcare, where intelligent nudges could prompt people to get regular check ups.

One potential challenge facing intelligent nudging concerns the potential for abuse and misuse. Is nudging useful, or is it a form of manipulation? Organisations that use intelligent nudging will also have to provide stringent data protection. However the combination of behavioural science with artificial intelligence potentially offers great benefits.

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