the heuristics and biases at play;
see the table for examples. For ex-
ample, a commonly used nudge in
binary choices is to preselect the
desired option to exploit the status
quo bias. When attempting to nudge
people in discrete choices, choice
architects can choose from a variety
of nudges to nudge people toward a
desired option. For example, in the
context of crowdfunding, with the
goal of increasing pledge amounts,
choice architects could present the
desired reward option as the default
option; add (unattractive) choices as
decoys; present the desired option
first or last to leverage primacy and
recency effects; or arrange the op-
tions so as to present the preferred
reward as the middle option. When
attempting to nudge people in con-
tinuous choices (such as when solic-
iting monetary donations), choice
architects could pre-populate input
fields (text boxes) with a particular
value so as to exploit the “anchor-
ing and adjustment” effect. Like-
wise, when using a slider to elicit
numerical responses, the position of
the slider and the slider endpoints
serve as implicit anchors. Present-
ing others’ choices next to rewards
to leverage people’s tendency to con-
form to norms or presenting limited
availability of rewards to exploit the
plications of deliberately nudging peo-
ple into making particular choices, as
nudging people toward decisions that
are detrimental to them or their wellbe-
ing is unethical and might thus back-
fire, leading to long-term negative ef-
fects for the organization providing the
choice. 30 In short, overall organizational
goals and ethical considerations drive
the design of choice situations, a high-
level step that influences all subsequent
Step 2: Understand the users. Peo-
ple’s decision making is susceptible to
heuristics and biases. Heuristics, com-
monly defined as “rules of thumb,” 14
can facilitate human decision making
by reducing the amount of informa-
tion to be processed when addressing
simple, recurrent problems. Converse-
ly, heuristics can influence decisions
negatively by introducing cognitive
biases—systematic errors—when one
faces complex judgments or decisions
that should require more extensive
deliberation. 7 Researchers have stud-
ied a wide range of psychological ef-
fects that subconsciously influence
people’s behavior and decision mak-
ing.b In addition to the middle-option
bias, decoy effect, and scarcity effect
described earlier, common heuristics
like the “anchoring-and-adjustment”
heuristic, or people being influenced
by an externally provided value, even
if unrelated; the “availability” heuris-
tic, or people being influenced by the
vividness of events that are more easily
remembered; and the “representative-
ness” heuristic, or people relying on
stereotypes when encountering and
assessing novel situations, 34 influence
how alternatives are evaluated and
what options are ultimately selected.
Other heuristics and biases that can
have a strong effect on choices in-
clude the “status quo bias,” or people
tending to favor the status quo so they
are less inclined to change default
options; 18 the “primacy and recency
effect,” or people recalling options
presented first or last more vividly,
so those options have a stronger in-
fluence on choice; 24 and “appeals to
b See Stanovich20 for a taxonomy of rational think-
ing errors and biases; see also Wikipedia for an
extensive list of cognitive biases that influence
people’s online and offline behavior (https://
norms,” or people tending to be influ-
enced by the behavior of others. 23 Un-
derstanding these heuristics and bi-
ases and the potential effects of digital
nudges can thus help designers guide
people’s online choices and avoid the
trap of inadvertently nudging them
into decisions that might not align
with the organization’s overall goals.
Step 3: Design the nudge. Once
the goals are defined (see Step 1: Define the goal) and the heuristics and
biases are understood (see Step 2:
Understand the users), the designer
can select the appropriate nudging
mechanism(s) to guide users’ decisions in the designer’s intended direction. Common nudging frameworks a designer could use to select
appropriate nudges include the Behavior Change Technique Taxonomy, 21 NUDGE, 31 MINDSPACE, 6 and
Tools of a Choice Architecture. 16
Selecting an appropriate nudge and
how to implement it through available design elements, or user-interface patterns, is determined by both
the type of choice to be made—
binary, discrete, or continuousc—and
c In most cases, the type of decision is an externality, and many decisions allow for only one
type; for example, consenting to something
(whether organ donation or signing up for a
newsletter) would normally always be a binary
• What is the use scenario?
• What are the overall organizational goals?
• What specific goals are to be achieved in this situation?
• What are the ethical implications of nudging people into making a certain decision?
Understand the decision process:
• What are the users’ goals?
• What are the users’ decision-making processes?
• What heuristics might influence users’ choices?
Design the nudge:
• What types of nudges could counter the influence of biases?
• What types of nudges could increase the influence of biases?
• What nudges could inadvertently influence users’ choices?
• How can the design of the user interface be modified to include the preferred nudges?
• How can we analyze users’ behavior to adapt the choice environment dynamically?
Test the nudge:
• How effective are the various nudges?
• Does the effectiveness differ across users?
• Do the nudges fit the context and the goals?
• Do we have a thorough understanding of the users’ decision-making process?
Need to Address