James Swift

1 November 2021

Strategist’s Digest: The conditions of nudgeability 

Contagious digests the most interesting and relevant research from the world of advertising and beyond, because there’s just too much to read and too little time

Nudgeability: Mapping Conditions of  Susceptibility to Nudge Influence. 

By Denise de Ridder, Floor Kroese, and Laurens van Gestel.

Give it to me in one sentence.

Nudging still works even when people know they’re being nudged.

Give me a little more detail.

The authors conducted a meta-analysis of studies to determine what factors influence the effectiveness of nudges.

Contrary to expectations, they learned people are no less likely to comply with a nudge if you tell them what is happening – or even why and how they were being nudged. And when given the chance, very few people reverse their decision after learning that it was made under nudge conditions.

The research also showed people can’t be nudged into doing something they actively dislike and won’t comply with a nudge if they have a strong preference for doing something else.

For example, in one 2013 study a nudge to encourage people to put their tax refund into a savings account didn’t work when people had already decided how they would spend their windfall.

Several studies within the meta-analysis looked at whether people were more susceptible to nudges when making decisions quickly and instinctively (ie, system 1 thinking) but the consensus appears to be that it confers no great advantage compared with control conditions.

For the purposes of this paper, a nudge was defined as any intervention that aims ‘to gently steer a choice without forbidding the alternative option’.

Why is this interesting?

It demonstrates that nudging – when practised ethically – is not a dark art that robs people of their free will.

Any weaknesses?

Not so much a weakness but the authors are careful to frame their analysis as a ‘first attempt at categorising scattered findings’.

Where can I find the whole report?

Here and it’s free.

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