What is Psychological Nudging?

Psychological Nudging: The Government’s BehaviourImages of Eyes are useful for psychological nudgingal Insights Team, aka The Nudge Unit, has been in existence for many years, but few people know of it.  

However it can teach FE a thing or two about marketing and business development.

Psychological nudging is used by government to encourage us to do things we might not otherwise want to do. Things like pay their road tax.

A few years ago the Nudge Unit suggested that DVLA changed their normal long-winded letter to suspected non payers and sent a very simple message to those suspected on non payment. It simply said, Pay Your Road Tax or Lose Your Car.

Payments from previous non payers doubled.  And when a photo of the vehicle was added payments tripled.

Outside of government nudge methods  also work.  Where honesty boxes are used the level of non payment significantly drops if you put an image of a pair of eyes next to the box!

Clearly no one really thinks the eyes can repsychological nudging is used by govenemnt to encourage us to do things we might not otherwise doport non-payers but it is enough to encourage more payments.

I recently received a new passport and it had a bright yellow label on one page with the message to remove it.

Clearly they wanted me to pay attention to the messsage written UNDER the label .. and it worked.

Processing Fluency or Contra Nudging

When I say “processing fluency, I mean the ease with which I recognise something and can make an association.

A key piece of research here focueses on the correlation between stock prices of companies with easily pronounceable names versus hard-to-pronounce names.

Those with easier to pronounce names tend, over time, to correlate with higher stock value.


It seems like some people may avoid names they can’t pronounce. Of course not everyone will but if just a few percent do then that has an effect over the longer term.

This is the opposite of nudging.  A form of Contra Nudging.

FE & Pyschological Nudging 

We need to take notioce of this in FE.  Years ago I argued that the learndirect brand was flawed simply because of the use of the leading letter being in a mandatory lower case. We were advised to never start a sentence with the word learndirect.

But let’s look at the positive side of psychological nudging.

Website conversion is an area where we can employ positive nudging. Simple things like improving conversion rates can be achieved by putting the Apply Now buttons in the right places.

Another example is the production of course pages that scroll down and down the page versus those that use tabs.  The SEO people warn against the use of tabs on the basis that it can stop search spiders ut if well designed that isn’t the case and in any case we need to think about people using the site as much as search engines!

Tabs make it much easier for people and by suing the correct tabs we can nudge propects in to becoming applicants.

Alternatively use micro-committments to nudge people along the application journey by signing up for an Open Day or Taster course!


Related Post