I wrote Nudge & Boost for Better Living with three purposes in mind. First, to provide useful information about the science of behavior to a broad range of readers so they - you - could use findings from it in everyday situations to build a happier and more successful life. Second, to offer science-informed strategies good for understanding and dealing constructively with problems facing our communities and the world. The third purpose for the book is to share with practitioners of the science of behavior, lessons for applying science-based insights I learned while solving problems and building programs in various settings over many years.
I think it is fair to assume all of us would like to be better at doing some things, maybe go to the gym more often, or be a better parent, a more pleasant co-worker, or a more effective manager. And, probably most of us would like other people to behave better, for example, for politicians to be less nasty and more helpful, for police to be less belligerent and more compassionate, and all folks in our communities to be more understanding and positive to one another.
Fortunately, the science of behavior has accumulated nearly a century of research regarding how we are motivated and how we learn, change, or unlearn behaviors. In my book I use stories, real life examples, and simple diagrams to teach the primary principles of behavior science and strategies for constructively using them. For ease of communication, I use the term Nudge to mean things in our environments that indicate behaviors we could or should do (e.g., a Stop sign nudges drivers where and when to stop; a calendar entry might nudge you to attend a meeting), and the term Boost mean events in our environments that strengthen behaviors (e.g., hearing “Thanks” might boost your behavior that earned it; feelings of accomplishment may be a boost for working effectively; and, completing an unpleasant chore is boosted by removal of the feelings of obligation).
The concept of nudge was made popular by the book entitled Nudge by Thaler and Sunstein (2008). Since then, the presumed power of nudges and nudging for solving problems of government and industry has led to the formation of so-called nudge squads or Behavioral Insights Teams in many locations around the world, so you might have heard of the terms nudge or behavioral insights.
One major insight from behavioral science is the recognition of powerful effects of consequences on the behaviors they follow. It is popular to think of “consequences” to mean something bad, like criticism or punishment, but consequences can be positive and valued outcomes of behavior, that serve to strengthen the behaviors that produced them. I call the types of consequences that build or strengthen behaviors, boosts.
Nudges and boosts are important dynamic features in our environments. Essentially, Nudges indicate what behaviors we should do or not do, and boosts strengthen the behaviors they follow. Considering these two insights, we can appreciate that by thoughtfully changing nudges and adjusting boosts we may favorably change learning and behaving in ways we prefer. That is, being better at managing nudges and boosts allows us to be better at motivating, teaching or changing behaviors in directions that are good for better living.
In Nudge & Boost for Better Living, readers learn about major insights from behavioral science and strategies for using them to increase personal and social successes.