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Addressing the Practical and Ethical Issues of Nudging in Environmental Policy

Janne I. Hukkinen

Environmental Values 25 (2016): 329-351. doi: 10.3197/096327116X14598445991501

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Nudging refers to the subtle design of the context of choice in a way that mobilises the unconscious mind and alters human behaviour predictably. Nudging has been criticised for entailing numerous practical and ethical problems, including manipulation, elitism and cultural insensitivity. To respond to the problems, participatory and deliberative procedures have been proposed that would enable the questioning of the power relations embedded in behavioural governance. Yet participation and deliberation are themselves characterised by unconscious behavioural influences. I argue that awareness of the prevalence of unconscious behavioural influences in environmental governance is a prerequisite for tackling the complex practical and ethical issues of nudging. I show that unconscious behavioural influences permeate environmental governance and outline analytical approaches for revealing them.


Nudging, behavioural prodding, common pool resources, practice theory, cognitive linguistics.

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