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Nudging involves gently coaxing someone into a decision or behavior. The successful nudge is one that results in the desired choice or behavior without the person realizing any external influence.
The mind seems to involve various simple systems throughout the body that are not always in agreement. Some systems are shortsighted, some care about relationships, and some prioritize the future of humanity.
We are not always aware of each mechanism. Sometimes we make decisions carefully and other times intuitively.
A way to nudge people involves changing the decision environment.
For instance, a grocery store that is trying to encourage consumers to purchase ecologically responsible products will display the product repeatedly throughout the shop. It will re-trigger the internalized norm and will increase environmentally responsible purchases.
Nudges enhance or suppress virtuous behaviors. They cannot make people do something they don't want to do. They only encourage them to make a decision that may be hidden by other factors.
Perhaps the easiest way to make sure we can face a hard decision with our full attention is to simply make fewer decisions.
Think of people like Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg, and Barack Obama, who limit their wardrobe choices to a few staple pieces, in order to save mental energy for important decisions.