Keynote Speakers

Meet our keynote speakers Barbara Prainsack and Eldar Shafir!

Interview with Eldar Shafir

To get you warmed up for the conference, we would like to introduce our first keynote speaker:

Eldar Shafir

Professor of Psychology @ Princeton University – New Jersey (US)
Author of the book Scarcity

An interview by Tina Venema

In your book “Scarcity” you conveyed the message that people who experience scarcity are prone to use mental shortcuts when making decisions. To what extent can nudging help to alter this kind of decision making?

Our main point in the book is that people who juggle scarcity tend to experience cognitive load. Dealing with the persistent demands of scarcity requires constant attention, and leaves less mind for other things.  When you function under load and have less mental space for other things, the way context is structured, what nudges are present, is likely to influence how and where you end up.

Regarding the literature on nudging, which topic is still scarce in your opinion?

So far, nudges, while they can have high impact, have tended to be behaviourally rather trivial. It will be interesting to see how we might be able to add greater behavioural sophistication to come up with novel, more subtle, less obvious, yet controllable nudges.

What are your expectations for the future of nudging?

Nudging has played an important role in convincing policy makers that behavioural interventions can really matter. Hopefully, this will now lead to increased interest in behavioural insights and to greater behavioural involvement in policy making, involving nudging but also far beyond.

What are you most looking forward to at the conference?

It is always instructive to exit one’s own pond, and get exposed to others’ work, their thinking, and the research issues they find most exciting.

Interview with Barbara Prainsack

To get you warmed up for the conference, we would like to introduce our first keynote speaker:

Barbara Prainsack

Professor of Comparative Policy Analysis @ University of Vienna and King’s College London (UK)

An interview by Anastasia Vugts

If I say “Nudge” what is the first thing that comes to mind?

As somebody who studies policy I am interested in the larger political economy that nudging is part of, and what substantive political and social goals nudging serves. I am also interested in the explicit and in the tacit assumptions that underpin the very concept of nudging.

Are there certain areas or aspects of nudging or nudge policies that are currently overlooked?

I hope that in the next couple of years, there will be more explicit attention to, and discussions of, the substantive values that nudging research seeks to support, and how nudging can be used to increase social justice. Crucial questions in this regard include what kind of society we want to create, and what values we want to support. In my own work on the relationship between solidarity and nudging I have argued that, while some formats of nudging can increase social justice and potentially also enhance solidarity, other instances can lead to greater fragmentation of society and thus harm solidarity – e.g. by delineating groups of people whose behaviours are marked as problematic (socially deviant, unhealthy, etc.).To give an example, when a park is built to nudge people to work out more, this is great from a solidarity- and social justice-point of view, because it does not single out any stigmatised group and it potentially benefits everyone. But when nudging targets smokers, for example, or obese people, then the very practice of nudging marks these people as “different from us” (the rational, responsible non-smokers and healthy people) and can increase resentment in society if not done very carefully.

What are your expectations for the future of nudging?

I hope, as I mentioned before, that there will be more explicit discussions on the values and goals that nudging serves, and more critical explorations of the political environment in which nudge policies work. I also hope to see more work evaluating nudging policies compared with other policy instruments that does not only look at effectiveness in a narrow sense but at broader societal and political effects.

What are you looking most forward to in the conference?

Almost everything! Hearing about people’s work, new horizons of research, and learning from people. I’m especially curious to hear more about how people think about and choose the goals they are trying to reach by nudging.