The Aesthetic Toll of Nudging

21 Pages Posted: 24 Feb 2020

See all articles by Nicolas Cornell

Nicolas Cornell

University of Michigan Law School

Date Written: December 31, 2015


Nudging operates by shaping the so-called architecture of our choices. This can happen in many ways, but often it involves altering how we perceive our choices by providing us with information or cues. For example, cleverly engineered road signs, financial disclosure statements, and nutrition labeling can prompt people to drive more safely, save more money, and eat healthier. These nudges operate by inserting themselves into our perceptual experience. We see — and consequently think about — information that we otherwise wouldn’t. In this paper, I argue that this form of nudging can create significant impact on aesthetics. Appreciating aesthetic value, whether it be beautiful natural scenery or an enticing meal, often depends on experience uninterrupted by other thoughts. And, even in less obviously aesthetic contexts, nudges can clutter or skew our experience. The irony here is that nudging — which purports to eschew coercion — ends up forcing us to think in certain ways and preventing us from experiencing the world as we might otherwise. I conclude that, at the very least, considerations of aesthetics and freedom of thought should figure more in our decisions about when to nudge and when not to nudge.

Keywords: nudge, nudging, libertarian paternalism, aesthetics, Sunstein

JEL Classification: K00

Suggested Citation

Cornell, Nicolas, The Aesthetic Toll of Nudging (December 31, 2015). Georgetown Journal of Law & Public Policy, Forthcoming, Available at SSRN:

Nicolas Cornell (Contact Author)

University of Michigan Law School ( email )

625 South State Street
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1215
United States

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