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Why a Nudge is Not Enough: A social identity critique of governanceby stealth

December 06, 2016 by Frank Mols, S. Alexander Haslam, Jolanda Jetten, Niklas K. Steffens

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Policy makers can use four different modes of governance: ‘hierarchy’, ‘markets’, ‘networks’ and ‘persuasion’. In this article, it is argued that ‘nudging’ represents a distinct (fifth) mode of governance. The effectiveness of nudging as a means of bringing about lasting behaviour change is questioned and it is argued that evidence for its success ignores the facts that many successful nudges are not in fact nudges; that there are instances when nudges backfire; and that there may be ethical concerns associated with nudges. Instead, and in contrast to nudging, behaviour change is more likely to be enduring where it involves social identity change and norm internalisation. The article concludes by urging public policy scholars to engage with the social identity literature on ‘social influence’, and the idea that those promoting lasting behaviour change need to engage with people not as individual cognitive misers, but as members of groups whose norms they internalise and enact.