Nudge Lab

It All Starts with a Nudge

“Nudging” is one way to influence behavioral change. A nudge makes it more likely that an individual will make a particular choice, or behave in a particular way, by altering the environment so that automatic cognitive processes are triggered to favor a desired outcome.

That's where the MITRE Nudge Lab comes in. It's a resource that helps our staff and sponsors guide people to make better decisions. A variety of nudging techniques are available, and MITRE Nudge Team experts work as “choice architects” to identify and evaluate which nudge works best for a given context. 

Behavioral and social scientists have a large toolbox of “carrots” and “sticks” for behavior change. Nudges use carrots (rewards) to influence the behavior and decision making of groups or individuals. It's not appropriate for every context but, when appropriate, it can be powerful. 

Here are just a few examples of how a little nudge can go a long way:

  • Grocery store presentation. Placing healthy options at eye level subtly steers people toward picking healthier options. People still have freedom of choice; if they really want a cookie, they can purchase it. But doing so requires more deliberate effort than if junk food sits at eye level.
  • Setting defaults for life choices. Many people must take action to enroll in retirement savings plans, but many never get around to it. Changing the default so that people are automatically enrolled, unless they opt out, dramatically increases the number of people enrolled in retirement savings plans.
  • Informing individuals about social norms. Telling home owners how their electricity consumption compares to their neighbors' usage has been shown to increase electrical thriftiness.

The science of nudging arose from the work of Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein, whose 2008 book, Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness, brought the concept to a wide audience. Thaler later won a Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences for his work in behavioral economics, including nudge theory.

Learn More about MITRE Nudge Studies

We invite you to see where the MITRE Nudge Lab has made a difference. Then, review our frequently asked questions. Nudges aren't appropriate solutions for every problem, but when the challenge is appropriate, we may be able to help. 

If you think nudging is the right approach, please send an email to the MITRE Nudge Lab at nudgelab@357n.com. The team will explore with you whether a Nudge Study is a good option for your project.