“Nudging and Boosting: Steering or Empowering Good Decisions”.
Insights from psychology and behavioral economics into how people make decisions have attracted policymakers’ attention. These insights can inform the design of nonregulatory and nonmonetary policy interventions—as well as more traditional fiscal and coercive measures. To date, much of the discussion of behaviorally informed approaches has emphasized “nudges,” that is, interventions designed to steer people in a particular direction while preserving their freedom of choice. Yet, behavioral science also provides support for a distinct kind of nonfiscal and noncoercive intervention, namely, “boosts.” Their objective is to foster people’s competence to make their own choices—that is, to exercise their own agency. Building on this distinction, we further elaborate how boosts are conceptually distinct from nudges: The two kinds of interventions differ with respect to (i) their immediate intervention targets, (ii) their roots in different research programs, (iii) the causal pathways through which they affect behavior, (iv) their respective assumptions about human cognitive architecture, (v) the reversibility of their effects, (vi) their programmatic ambitions, and (vii) their normative implications. We discuss each of these dimensions, provide an initial taxonomy of different boosts, and address some possible misconceptions about boosts.