Natalie Haynes: How can I tell if I've been nudged?

The thing is...

Share
Related Topics

The thing is that nudging us towards healthy behaviour may not be a very effective way of getting us to give up the Marlboro Lights, the doughnuts, and the swift gin to knock both of them back. The Coalition's policy of nudging people in the direction of healthier lifestyles, rather than using regulation, has been roundly criticised this week by the House of Lords Science and Technology Sub-Committee (which I like to assume is comprised entirely of ancient dukes and earls, gazing in bafflement at a wireless and wondering if there is a tiny man inside).

They have suggested that sometimes, a nudge away from the chips and towards the salad bar is not enough, and proposed legislation be used to ensure that, for example, traffic-light labelling appears on the food we buy. Though I would point out that this is, in essence, merely legislating the nudge: no one is proposing to ban the "red-light" foods – thank God, or I'd have to move to France to get my daily cheese fix. They're simply trying to ensure that when you buy a Camembert, you know it's not as healthy as a bag of raw carrots and a mint tea. Something which, I would additionally point out, we pretty much all knew already.

Given our natural resistance to changing our behaviour, it can come as little surprise that a government-backed nudge isn't enough to change it either. The National Blood Service has been nudging and encouraging us to donate blood for as long as I can remember. They have adverts which tell you that giving blood is doing something amazing, they tell you how many lives can be saved with a single pint, they explain that winter flu epidemics have drained their supplies. And yet still only 4 per cent of eligible donors actually donate. The remaining 96 per cent are presumably either too squeamish or too busy, or just don't want to give blood.

If that's how effective a nudging campaign is, for something which takes three afternoons a year, tops, and gives you free biscuits and lemon squash, it's no wonder that persuading people to quit smoking or exercise more isn't having a huge impact. How do you nudge someone into stopping being addicted to nicotine? If the health warnings, the expense, and the 100 per cent likelihood that a smoker knows someone who has died from smoking didn't put them off, will telling them their hair smells of fags really make any difference?

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Tradewind Recruitment: English Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: This post arises as a result of the need to...

Tradewind Recruitment: Class Teacher Required ASAP In Uminster

£120 - £150 per annum: Tradewind Recruitment: I am recruiting on instruction o...

Ashdown Group: Head of Finance - Financial Director - London - £70,000

£70000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Head of Finance - Financial Controller - Fina...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Executive - Wimbledon, SW London

£24000 - £28000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Executive - Wim...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

I’m not sure I fancy any meal that’s been cooked up by a computer

John Walsh
Labour leader Ed Miliband delivers a speech on his party's plans for the NHS, in Sale, on Tuesday  

Why is Miliband fixating on the NHS when he’d be better off focussing on the wealth gap?

Andreas Whittam Smith
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee
World War Z author Max Brooks honours WW1's Harlem Hellfighters in new graphic novel

Max Brooks honours Harlem Hellfighters

The author talks about race, legacy and his Will Smith film option to Tim Walker
Valentine's Day cards: 5 best online card shops

Don't leave it to the petrol station: The best online card shops for Valentine's Day

Can't find a card you like on the high street? Try one of these sites for individual, personalised options, whatever your taste
Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

Greece elections

In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

Holocaust Memorial Day

Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
Fortitude and the Arctic attraction: Our fascination with the last great wilderness

Magnetic north

The Arctic has always exerted a pull, from Greek myth to new thriller Fortitude. Gerard Gilbert considers what's behind our fascination with the last great wilderness
Homeless Veterans appeal: Homeless in Wales can find inspiration from Daniel’s story

Homeless Veterans appeal

Homeless in Wales can find inspiration from Daniel’s story
Front National family feud? Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks

Front National family feud?

Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks
Pot of gold: tasting the world’s most expensive tea

Pot of gold

Tasting the world’s most expensive tea
10 best wildlife-watching experiences: From hen harriers to porpoises

From hen harriers to porpoises: 10 best wildlife-watching experiences

While many of Britain's birds have flown south for the winter, it's still a great time to get outside for a spot of twitching
Nick Easter: 'I don’t want just to hold tackle bags, I want to be out there'

'I don’t want just to hold tackle bags, I want to be out there'

Nick Easter targeting World Cup place after England recall