Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Is nudging ethical?

The challenges and opportunities of ‘nudging’

A forthcoming Editorial in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health provides some amunition for those interested on nudging.
The answer to the question if nudging is an ethically acceptable way of governing people’s behaviour depends on the ethical principles one adheres to. Our core point is that there is no magic trick, any form of policy intervention will impose a criterion against someone’s will, and democracy requires: (1) transparency from the political system in terms of the values selected in deciding and designing an intervention; (2) and at least an evidence-based justification of choice.
If the preferences of an individual change, then we cannot state that his first choice is better/equal/worse than his second one without introducing a ranking among his preference systems. As a result, value-free interventions cannot be defined.
If no magic bullet is available on the policy side, the same applies to research. In the domain of health, behavioural approaches must cope with the challenge of not neglecting the socioeconomic and contextual determinant of health inequalities
We argue that neglecting socioeconomic variables would be clearly a mistake also in the design of nudge. However, our point is precisely that behavioural science (and nudge as its policy implication) can incorporate an analysis of social and cultural factors, and avoid cognitive universalism.
Easier said than done. For an op-ed, it fits with the audience, for a strict and concrete policy recommendation requires further elaboration. I can't see  a practical and concrete applicable approach nowadays. Let's continue waiting.

PS. Must read, on medical devices in BMJ.A systematic review of new implants in hip and knee replacement

PS. A flawed PNAS article unveiled. Again and again, where is peer-review?

Jordi Pintó at Galeria Banadas

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