Working PaperPDF Available


Content may be subject to copyright.
Nudge: Cigarette butts- Not for littering but for voting
Selagea Vasile Ioan, Simeanu Carla Maria, Stancu Elena Alexandra
Lucian Blaga University of Sibiu, Department of Journalism, Public Relations, Sociology and
Psychology Sibiu, Romania
Humans are not always rational beings, so therefore we have a large scale of techniques meant
to improve the decision making process in such way that individuals would choose what is
useful for society or for they own long term wellbeing. In the following paper we present a
technique of environment manipulation which offered great results in inducing a desired
behavior among students: throwing cigarette butts in special bins. The results show how facile
the process of life improvement can be stimulated trough nudge.
Keywords: environment, littering, recipient, voting, nudge.
The picture of a man who is rational, making his own decision in an unbiased way was the
approach promoted by the mainstream economics. This vision created by the economists is
nowadays contradicted by the results from behavioral sciences researches which present a
human who does not always think rationally and how uses cognitive short-cuts, social norms
and pressures in the process of making decisions (Moseley & Stoker, 2013). These results
replace the image of homo economicus with the image of a person who has bounded rationality
and how does not make deliberate decision (Mont, Lehner & Heiskanen, 2014).
In the paperwork In search of the lost nudges (2015), Guilhem Lecouteux states that
standard economic theory is built on the assumption that people act as if seeking to satisfy
stable and coherent preferences and are instrumentally rational given their beliefs and
The term “nudge” refers to “any aspect of the choice architecture that alerts people`s
behaviour in a predictable way without forbidding any options or significantly changing their
ecomonic incentives” (Thaler & Sustein, 2008, p. 6).
From economic behavior perspective, Kahnemann (2011) stated that all situations have
in one way or another the architecture of a choice, even if it is not built explicitly. This
architecture refers to the informational or physic structure of the environment, what influences
the way in which the choices are made (Thaler & Sunstein, 2008). Nudge therefore refers to the
deliberate changes what are made within choice’s architecture, changes what will influence
people’s behavior by changing the environment itself, what allows individuals to make a choice
almost automatically. This may be accomplished by simplifying the offered information or by
changing the order of choices so that it would facilitate taking the socially desirable decision. In
other words, nudges do not try to change someone’s values or to increase the amount of
information, but focuses on allowing decision making and manifesting the individual behaviors
which are useful for society and usually serve individual’s long term interests (Thaler &
Sunstein, 2008).
For understanding how the nudges work it is imperative to understand how the human
behavior works in taking a decision from the perspective of economical psychology. Therefore,
to understand the behavior which a nudge wishes to change, a looking into Daniel Kahneman
(2011) decision making theory is necessary. Kahneman describes in his theory two systems of
thinking : system 1-fast (automatic ,intuitive) and system 2-slow (deliberate, conscious). While
system 1 is used for daily decisions system 2 is used for taking much more important decisions
that need thorough thinking. Nudges just as the most of the tools for changing behavior target a
changing in system 2 (Lehner, Mont, Heiskanen, 2015).
Aiming to „influence people`s behaviour in order to make their lives longer, healthier and
better” (Thaler & Sunstein, 2008, p. 5) the movement known as libertarian paternalism supports
the idea that humans have to be guided, but not forced to improve their lives. Researchers who
promote this approach think that the government should give citizens “a choice architecture that
encourages them to act in a way that achieves benefits for themselves and for their fellow
citizens.” (John, Cotterill, Richardson, Moseley, Stoker, Wales & Smith, 2011, p. 10).
Citing Thaler and Sunstein (2008), Mont, Lehner and Heiskanen present when a nudging
intervention could be undertaken. Thereby, they mention following situations:
When choices have delayed effects
When learning is not possible
When feedback can not be received
Nudge represents a collective construct for different instruments used o influence people’s
behaviour. This implies four categories of instruments: simplifying and reorganizing the
information, simplifying and reorganizing the physic environment, changing the default
policies, use of the social norms.
Nudging is built on the insight that not only the quantity and the accessibility of the
information is important, but also the way it is presented. Simplifying the information means
that it becomes more direct and presented in a suitable manner for it to be processed and to
facilitate the decisional process. This is useful in the context of complex products or services.
The framing refers to consciously providing information in such manner that it
would trigger certain values and attitudes in people.
Another method of simplifying and reorganizing the information is trough feedback. It is
well known the significant impact the environment has upon individual’s choices. Eg: The
product placement on shelves, inside the store (Goldberg & Gunasti,2007), small sizes of
plates and portion in “all you can eat” restaurants reduce the the amount of wasted food and
energy consumption (Freedman & Brocado, 2010; Rolls, Morris et al., 2002).
People often choose the path which has the fewest resistances. They prefer not to act unless
it is mandatory and have the tendency to procrastinate. Therefore we are influence by the
default options which determine the result of decision in case the people do not react. Eg.: A
Swedish study has proven that 30% of paper consumption is cause due to the default printing
option one-side-only and that changing the default option to both-sides print has reduced the
paper consumption by 15% (Egerbark & Ekstrijm, 2013).
Since people are social beings, social norms are a major influence factor for human
behavior. For a norm to be effective in changing the behavior, it has to be highly visible for
individuals. (Cialdini & Goldstein, 2004). Eg: A study has measured the fruit consumption in
two schools ( Schwarts, 2007). In the first school children were asked if they wanted a fruit or a
juice with the meal, while in the other school they were not asked (no inducement). The
difference between the two schools was significant: 70% of children from the first school have
chosen to eat fruits while in the other school, only 40%.
Social norms have an important role in fields as recycling where studies has shown that
neighbor’s recycling rate is mutual influenced. (John et al., 2011) .As littering is one that
includes more than one behavior, the behavior chosen for this research is cigarette butt littering.
On the website
dedicated to preventing this kind of behavior some data is given on why do people litter. Thus
63% of cigarette butt littering is attributable to individual motivations, in the top motivations
being lack of awareness about the environmental impact and insufficient ash receptacles.
Furthermore a striking 10% of cigarette butts are properly deposited in ash receptacles , being
the least likely item to be placed in a receptacle.
We expect that in this study the presence of the specially designed recipient to influence the
littering behavior of students who smoke in the specified area.
The participants to this study were the students of Lucian Blaga’s University from Sibiu who
live in dorm number 1, 31th, Victory’s Bloulevard , who usually choose as smoking place
the pre-selected area.
Selected Area:
After an observation realised in 15-12-2015, it was established that the area would have
surface of 2 square meters next to the dorm’s entry. This surface was cleaned up before the
observations so there were no leavings from previous days. The area was selected by the
frequency of students smoking there and therefore the significant amout of remnants.
The observation has been made after a prior cleaning up the area. The perimeter has been
observed for two days between: 7:00 am to 10:00 am the following day. After this perios, the
leftovers (cigarette butts) ere counted, the results were: 52 leftovers in the area and 10 in the
As a nudge instrument we used a recipent similar to a voting box, provided with two sections,
the boxes dimentions: 10 cm width, 40 cm lenght, 30 cm height. The materials from with the
box have been made are: stainless sheet for it’s fireproof properties and the front has been
made of glass to allow visibility.
The recipent was set in place at 7:00 am in the selected area, alongside with an A3 type poster
what had printed on a yellow back-ground the following message: „Have you studied for
exams?”. On the glass side of the recipent there were the answers: ”Yes” and ”No”.
Three weeks after the first observation, 06-01-2016, we collected the cigarette leftovers
from the box and the.
Figure 1. Design of the box
After the recipent was setup, the results were: 44 leftovers in the box and 7 leftover in the
Figure 2. Results before and after nudging
The results of the experiment confirm the effect of the nudge over the behavior of littering in
specially created places. As the results were visible and significant we recommend an
implementation at University level so that we can observe benefits at a greater scale . Even it
was demonstrated that nudging strategies have positive effects, they also have weaknesses.
Thus, one of the main disadvantages is that the results obtained in a laboratory or
environmental intervension could not be generalized on a population level. Moreover,
specialty literature evidences that the impact of a nudge is, for most interventions, small.
Beacuse of this, it is necessary to use trail-and-error process to achieve the goals. Beside this,
the positive impact of a nudge action decreases with time ((Mont et al., 2014).
Cialdini, R. B. and N. J. Goldstein (2004). Social Influence: Compliance and Conformity.
Annual Review of Psychology, 55(1): 591-621.
Goldberg, M. E., Gunasti, K. (2007). Creating an environment in which youths are
encouraged to eat a healthier diet. Journal of Public Policy & Marketing, 26 (2): 162-
Freedman, M. R. and C. Brochado (2010). Reducing portion size reduces food intake
and plate waste. Obesity, 18(9): 1864-1866.
John, P., Cotterill, S., Moseley, A., Richardson, L., Smith, G., Stoker, G., Wales, C. (2011).
Nugde, Nudge, Think, Think: Experimenting with ways to change civic behaviour. London:
Bloomsbury Academic .
Kahneman, D. (2011). Thinking, fast and slow. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
Lecouteux, G. (2015). In Search of Lost Nudges. Rev.Phil.Psych., 6, 397408
DOI 10.1007/s13164-015-0265-0.
Lehner, M., Mont, O., Heiskanen, E. (2016) Nudging - a promising tool for sustainable
consumption behaviour?, Journal of Cleaner Production
doi: 10.1016/j.jclepro.2015.11.086.
Mont, O., Lehner, M., Heiskanen, E. (2014). Nudging: A tool for sustainable behaviour?.
Bromma: Swedish Environmental Protection Agency.
Moseley, A., Stoker, G. (2013). Nudging citizens? Prospects and pitfalls confronting a new
heuristic. Resources, Conservation and Recycling, 79, 410.
Schwartz, M. (2007). The influence of a verbal prompt on school lunch fruit consumption: a
pilot study. International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, 4-6.
Thaler, R., Sunstein, C. (2008). Nudge. Improving Decisons about Helth, Wealth, and
Happiness. New Heaven & London: Yale Univeristy Press.
ResearchGate has not been able to resolve any citations for this publication.
Full-text available
This paper discusses the validity of nudges to tackle time-inconsistent behaviours. I show that libertarian paternalism is grounded on a peculiar model of personal identity, and that the argument according to which nudges may improve one’s self-assessed well-being can be seriously questioned. I show that time inconsistencies do not necessarily reveal that the decision maker is irrational: they can also be the result of discounting over the degree of psychological connectedness between our successive selves rather than over time (Parfit 1984, Reasons and Persons, Oxford University Press). Time inconsistency can call for paternalism if and only if we accept that an individual is characterised by stable “true” preferences over time-dependent outcomes, and that she is rationally required to make time-consistent choices. This model is descriptively and normatively questionable. I then argue that behavioural findings may still justify paternalistic interventions, but on a non-welfarist basis.
Technical Report
Full-text available
This study was conducted as part of a government commission which was given to the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency (Swedish EPA) in 2014. The Environmental Protection Agency mandated the International Institute for Industrial Environmental Economics (IIIEE) at Lund University to conduct a research study on nudging. The study has served and will serve as a direct input to further strategic work on sustainable consumption policies. The aim of the report is to synthesize existing knowledge about the effects achievable with nudging on consumption and the environment, in what areas nudging according to research can have the best effect and how nudging should be applied to give the best effect. The study comprised a literature review and interviews to collect experiences of working with nudging available in some countries.
Full-text available
Every day, we make decisions on topics ranging from personal investments to schools for our children to the meals we eat to the causes we champion. Unfortunately, we often choose poorly. The reason, the authors explain, is that, being human, we all are susceptible to various biases that can lead us to blunder. Our mistakes make us poorer and less healthy; we often make bad decisions involving education, personal finance, health care, mortgages and credit cards, the family, and even the planet itself. Thaler and Sunstein invite us to enter an alternative world, one that takes our humanness as a given. They show that by knowing how people think, we can design choice environments that make it easier for people to choose what is best for themselves, their families, and their society. Using colorful examples from the most important aspects of life, Thaler and Sunstein demonstrate how thoughtful "choice architecture" can be established to nudge us in beneficial directions without restricting freedom of choice. Nudge offers a unique new take-from neither the left nor the right-on many hot-button issues, for individuals and governments alike. This is one of the most engaging and provocative books to come along in many years. © 2008 by Richard H. Thaler and Cass R. Sunstein. All rights reserved.
Full-text available
More than one-third of young people in the United States are either obese or at risk of becoming obese. The authors consider how food marketers have contributed to this problem and how they might help resolve it. The article organizes the marketing activities of food-related companies around the classic four Ps. The authors first discuss product, price, and promotion in terms of past, present, and potential future industry actions. They then discuss place as a function of four key commercial end points in the food channel: (1) supermarkets, (2) convenience stores, (3) restaurants, and (4) schools. The authors consider government actions in terms of how they affect the actions of both the food industry and consumers. Throughout the article, the authors consider how extant research can be extended in an effort to better understand and address the youth obesity problem.), and Kunter Gunasti is a doctoral student (e-mail:, Department of Marketing, Pennsylvania State University. The authors thank Gerry Gorn, Bill Dietz, Betsy Moore, Joel Cohen, and the three anonymous JPP&M reviewers for their valuable insights. 1 Among female adolescents, both Mexican Americans and African Americans are more likely to be obese or at risk for obesity than white Americans. Among male adolescents, Mexican Americans but not African Americans are significantly more likely to be obese or at risk for obesity than white Americans (Ogden 2006). Although families' socioeconomic status is inversely related to the prevalence of adolescent obesity for white Americans, the same is not true for African Americans or Mexican Ameri-cans (Ogden, Carroll, and Flegal 2003; Troinano and Flegal 1998).
Full-text available
This review covers recent developments in the social influence literature, focusing primarily on compliance and conformity research published between 1997 and 2002. The principles and processes underlying a target's susceptibility to outside influences are considered in light of three goals fundamental to rewarding human functioning. Specifically, targets are motivated to form accurate perceptions of reality and react accordingly, to develop and preserve meaningful social relationships, and to maintain a favorable self-concept. Consistent with the current movement in compliance and conformity research, this review emphasizes the ways in which these goals interact with external forces to engender social influence processes that are subtle, indirect, and outside of awareness.
Success of strategies for solving problems of climate change, resource efficiency and environmental impacts increasingly depend on whether changes in public behaviour can and will supplement the technical solutions available to date. A renewed perspective on existing policy tools and potential strategies for behaviour change are entering public debate that have implications for behaviour of individuals, but that also raise critical questions about the role of the government in the society and transition to sustainability.
New insights from psychology and behavioural economics have encouraged a paradigm shift in policy debates towards a focus on ‘Nudge’ strategies that are influenced by an understanding of the cognitive, social and even moral factors driving human decision making. In areas such as environmental policy Nudging holds considerable potential as a tool of government to help change citizen and corporate behaviour. This article notes the strong evidence base for Nudge strategies drawn from the extensive social science literature on how citizens make decisions. It shows, however, that translating behavioural insights into viable policy interventions is far from straightforward and that the powerful insights embedded within Nudge heuristics will be lost if advocates of Nudge fail to address the complexities and challenges entailed in their project.
As portion size (PS) increases, so does food intake. The effect of decreasing PS on food intake in a nonlaboratory setting is unknown. This 5-week study sought to determine whether decreasing PS resulted in decreased intake of the same food, and if so, at what point further PS reductions might lack benefit. It also assessed effects of PS reduction on food production and waste in a university all-you-can-eat dining facility (DF). Subjects were primarily freshmen who regularly ate lunch at the DF, and self-selected French fries (FF) presented in individual paper bags, portioned originally at 88 g, and decreased approximately 15 g/week for 3 weeks. Diners were covertly observed choosing one or more bags. Total FF production and plate waste (PW) were determined daily. Decreasing PS resulted in significant decreases in consumption per diner (P < 0.05) and PW (P < 0.05), and nonsignificant decreases in total FF consumption and production. PS was positively correlated with consumption per diner (r = 0.897, P = 0.001) and PW (r = 0.852, P = 0.001), but inversely correlated with number of diners choosing >or=2 bags (r = -0.809, P = 0.003). Total FF production was positively correlated with PW (r = 0.728, P = 0.011). This study shows that reducing PS of a particular item in an all-you-can-eat environment results in reduced intake of that food for most individuals, and that reducing PS reduces PW and food production.