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Nudge-it collaborator Cass Sunstein wins prestigious Holberg Prize

Harvard professor,Cass SunsteinCass Sunstein has been awarded the Holberg Prize, one of the largest international awards given to an outstanding researcher in the arts and humanities, the social sciences, law, or theology.

Professor Sunstein is a collaborator and overseas partner on the Nudge-it project.  He works in close collaboration with Prof Lucia Reisch and her team at Copenhagen Business School on using nudge-theory to contribute to  improvements in public health policy.

A news article in the Harvard Gazette describes Professor Sunstein's work as having redefined several academic fields, and having had far-reaching impact on public policy. His scholarship spans behavioral economics and public policy, constitutional law and democratic theory, legal theory and jurisprudence, administrative law, and the regulation of risk.

In particular, Professor Sunstein’s academic work has reshaped understanding of the relationship between the modern regulatory state and constitutional law. He is widely regarded as the leading scholar of administrative law in the United States, and is by far the most cited legal scholar in the USA.  His achievment was also reported in the New York Times

 read the full news article in the Harvard Gazette

 read the article in the New York Times

Report from the Sixth Nudge-it Meeting, Florence 2018

24th – 26th January 2018, report by Amy Warnock



The meeting took place in the historical campus of the European University Institute situated in the hills just above Florence. 

On day one all Nudge-it partners gave a presentation of their current work any implications which it might have for future policy implications.

The second day of the meeting was focused around discussion. It began with parallel discussions in small groups centering on various aspects of decision making processes and drivers of food choice, such as the role of early life experiences on food preferences, biological and emotional drivers of food intake, and the role of environmental cues. Following this a full group discussion on the insights and ideas gleaned from the group discussions was had, leading into a conversation about the available tools to study and understand food choice. The importance of developing a definition for ‘hunger’ and ‘habit’ that was relevant across all disciplines was discussed, as well as the consequences of treating obesity vs preventing obesity. Finally, we formed two parallel groups considering anchors for policy as well as areas for future research. This resulted in a final discussion on how insights gained from Nudge-it could lead to policy recommendations.

florece cw 1
On the final day, Early Stage Researchers attended a public engagement workshop run by professionals from the EUI. It began with a discussion around the importance of research communication and the various tools and channels available to researchers to facilitate this. Prior to the workshop, ESRs had prepared a 3-minute script describing their research - this was then peer reviewed to ensure the language was clear and appropriate for the target audiences. The use of different video formats was then considered, ranging from speaking directly to the camera, an interview style format or an animated film. Finally tips for how to speak and act on camera were discussed. Once each group had chosen their video formats, the filming began! EUI staff were incredibly helpful and ensured that everyone was happy with their chosen format and assisted with the use of filming equipment and online programs for animations. The workshop has resulted in at least 10 different videos from a range of research backgrounds describing Nudge-it work. These will be available both on the website and will also be shown at a policy workshop in Copenhagen to demonstrate the range and scope of work being carried out by the consortium.

Nobel Prize awarded to Richard Thaler

The 2017 Nobel Prize for Economic Sciences has been awarded to Richard Thaler. This is a prize for behavioral economics, for the importance of psychology in economic decision-making, and for “Nudge,” the famous bestseller Thaler co-authored with Nudge-it researcher Cass Sunstein from Harvard University.

Nudge 2Thaler and Sunstein’s “Nudge” idea, developed in several articles and then compiled in an easily accessible pop science book, calls for behaviourally based regulation to improve people’s health, wealth, and happiness. Today, “behavioural public policy” (as called today) is increasingly seen as an effective way of public policy making, not substituting but supporting existing policy tools to become more effective, efficient, and acceptable. The main idea is to help people make the decisions that they would make if they had full knowledge and oversight, and if they were fully self-controlled – which people are typically not!

Today, more than 200 governments use forms of “choice architecture” in designing better systems. Making the healthy choice the easy choice - using priming, framing and reminders to make the healthier options more salient. Simplifying these choices and making them attractive, social, and timely core instruments of behaviourally informed policy that has been applied to all policy areas, including public health and nutrition policy. As recently shown by Nudge-it researchers (Reisch, Sunstein & Gwozdz 2017), people in general tend to like nudges, and there seems to a marked overall approval of health nudges in many countries worldwide.

We are honoured that Cass Sunstein will speak at the Nudge-it “Policy-meets-Research Workshop” in Copenhagen in May 2018.

Lucia Reisch, CBS

Lucia A. Reisch, Cass R. Sunstein & Wencke Gwozdz (2017). Beyond carrots and sticks: Europeans support health nudges. Viewpoint article. Food Policy, 69, 1-10

Food Policy 69 (1-10)

Report of the Fifth Nudge-it meeting, Bristol 2017

24th-26th April, Bristol, report by Jess Fielding

Bristol suspension bridge 2.png40 months into the Nudge-It project, the consortium met to disseminate where the different groups are with current research and to evaluate progress of answering their research questions in a meeting in Bristol, UK. Project Leader Gareth Leng, and Bristol-based host Prof Jeff Brunstrom moderated the discussions.

On the main session day, Principal Investigators (PIs) gave progress updates on the ongoing research the consortium groups are conducting. In addition, early stage researchers (ESRs) gave short talks on their current projects and research interests to the wider group. Both the progress reviews and ESRs talks sparked lively debate amongst the consortium members but with limited time between talks this highlighted the need for a more general discussion on the second day to address and assimilate our group understanding of key concepts in the literature when we were all approaching research questions from different fields, using different techniques. Later on day 1 both the PIs and ESRs continued discussion from our previous Nudge-It meeting considering what policy recommendations could be derived from the findings of the research consortium based on the most recent research findings. This discussion highlighted the complimentary nature of using both animal models and human models to approach our understanding of factors involved in dietary choice. Many parallels were drawn between findings from these different approaches however, it is still clear that there is a need to continue to develop tasks that can be conducted in a similar fashion in both rodents and humans to draw more direct comparisons. One such technique could be the use of conditioning/ go-nogo methods which are being used in the rodent models offering a clear potential avenue for more translational studies.

Bristol suspension bridge



After the talks and discussions ended on day 1 some members of the consortium took advantage of the longer hours of daylight to explore one of Bristol’s most notable historical structures – the Clifton Suspension Bridge which first opened to the public in 1864 and continues to be used to this day. Though the weather had been sunny it quickly descended into rain, and even some sleet, though members managed to take shelter and missed the worst of it.

  Later that evening members met up to have dinner at the historic Lido which dates back to 1849 and is one of the oldest surviving Lido’s in the UK.  It first opened in in 1849, but closed and fell into disrepair. A local campaign to save the Lido, and its listing as Grade 2 by English heritage issuing saved from demolition. It has been extensively restored and reopened in 2008. Since this time, it has since become a very popular venue in Bristol not only for open-air swimming but also for its award winning restaurant, tapas bar and spa.(the inclement weather discouraged anyone from braving a dip in the year-round open-air pool!).

Bristol LidoThe Lido  on a sunny day

BRistol Lido 2The  Night time view from the Restaurant

On the second day of the meeting consortium members came together to discuss future work for the group which quickly transformed into consideration of how we should define ‘hunger’. The interdisciplinary nature of the consortium members stimulated a lively debate from hunger relating to the balance of specific neurotransmitters in the brain to a broader definition relating to appetite reduction. Though in the limited time a clear working definition was not obtained, group members have said they will set time aside to work together to create a cross-disciplinary definition to encompass all that we mean by hunger.