A Comparative Investigation of Young People's Susceptibility to Nudging

Student thesis: Master thesis (including HD thesis)

  • Fenci Le Axelsen
  • Katrine Dissing Nielsen
Over the past three decades, a technological revolution has hit the consumers of the world. The technological revolution has changed consumers’ way of living, especially with the invention of the internet in 1991, and later on, the launch of the smartphone in 2007. Along with the development of technology, as we know it today, consumers have developed an inappropriate excessive use of technological devices. In particular, Millennials and people from generation Z, who have not experienced a world without computers and cell phones, have embraced the technology and now show distinct signs of excessive use. In relation to this, several case studies have shown that the excessive use of smartphones affect the social relations of consumers. Contradictory to this, studies have shown that the consumers are highly aware of the excessive use and the consequences hereof.
One way to reduce the consumers’ excessive use of smartphones might be done through nudging. The phenomenon of nudging was introduced in 2008 by Richard Thaler and Cass R. Sunstein. Fundamentally, nudging believes that people are irrational and therefore in need of guidance. Based on psychological heuristics and biases, nudging seeks to influence people in order to encourage appropriate behavior. Thus, nudging can be used in order to counteract inappropriate behavior. However, in order to be characterized as nudging, the influential nudges must be avoidable and overall beneficial for the concerned individuals.

The focal point of this master’s thesis is the testing of five different nudging theories. These nudging theories are, namely: Unpleasant Design, Temptation Bundling, Choice Overload, Social Proof and Planlægningsintentionen. This theoretical framework will provide the foundation of the quantitative investigation in this thesis. Through a total of five hypotheses, two target groups’ level of influence, when exposed to different nudging theories, will be examined and compared. One target group is young people in the age between 18-34 years living in Aalborg. The other target group is young people in the age between 18-34 years living in London. The investigation will be conducted based on questionnaires survey which has been distributed through the internet.
Based on a comparative analysis of the results from the questionnaires, it has been concluded whether the five hypotheses can be falsified or verified. Conclusively, four out of five hypotheses were falsified. The four falsified hypotheses involved Unpleasant Design, Temptation Bundling, Choice Overload and Planlægningsintentionen. Thereby, it is concluded that it is rather improbable that the target groups experience different levels of influence when exposed to these four nudging theories. However, the hypothesis testing Social Proof was verified. Based in the verification of the hypothesis, it is concluded that the two target groups are influenced differently when exposed to the nudging theory of Social Proof.

This master’s thesis contributes to the scarce field of research regarding the emerging phenomenon of nudging. Based on this research individuals as well as organizations can find guidance on how to use nudging within the context of excessive smartphone usage in social settings. Furthermore, this research provides guidance on which nudging theories to utilize when targeting young people within the age of 18-34 years living in Aalborg or London. Finally, this research provides the foundation for further examination of the nudging theories involved. In relation to this, it would be interesting to examine whether the influential effect of these nudging theories is universal, or just a concurrence between the target groups involved.
LanguageDanish
Publication date30 May 2019
Number of pages172
ID: 304746647