Cues and Nudges are used to encourage behaviour change [B.7], facilitating rapid and improved individual decision-making through small changes to the environment. They make use of mental shortcuts so that the desired behaviour is actively supported or encouraged by the environment itself.
Cues and Nudges are based on the assumption that there are two main systems of thinking. System 1 represents fast, auto-pilot, intuitive thinking and decision making and system 2 represents slow, complex and rational thought. System 1’s quick-thinking quality makes it highly receptive to social and environmental cues. Hence focusing behavioural change efforts on Cues and Nudges can encourage rapid behaviour change as well as improve the speed and efficiency of system 2. Specific types of Cues and Nudges vary; their design can be creative. Three main types can be planned (1) Default – the process of setting up a particular choice or behaviour as the default, so that people must consciously choose to opt-out, (2) Salience –to increase the availability or prominence of the prompts to behave in the desired way and (3) Social proof – utilising the tendency to follow what others, particularly peers, do (Social Norms, B.6 and T.45). WASH programmes have mainly drawn on ‘salience and social proof’; examples include installing mirrors at washbasins (to encourage use of the washbasin), using a path of brightly coloured floor tiles or painted footsteps leading to the handwashing area in schools (also turning it into a game), using other visual Cues such as arrows on the ground, or the use of the fly or bottle top ‘target’ in men’s urinals. Cues and Nudges can be implemented quickly and at a relatively low cost.
The tool is appropriate in most contexts and phases but may not be a priority in the initial phase of an emergency. The evidence supporting Cues and Nudges in humanitarian settings is limited but encouraging. The approach is inexpensive and can be rapidly implemented.
Conduct an assessment of the target group, behaviours and available or required resources (e.g. hardware, enabling products) to develop tailored, context-specific Cues and Nudges
Listen carefully to different community members to help identify potential Cues and Nudges
Do not use Cues and Nudges as a single approach. The method should be used alongside other interventions
Do not confuse the tool with mandatory laws e.g. for vaccination. Cues and Nudges are ‘carrots’ not ‘sticks’
Splash in Nepal incorporated Nudges into a comprehensive behaviour change strategy. Handwashing rates increased from around 9% to more than 65% after using a combination of infrastructure, education and Nudges. Students showed a significant preference for using sinks with mirrors, even when those sinks were further from a latrine. A study of Save the Children, Bangladesh looked at a set of Nudges implemented to encourage handwashing with soap after toilet use in two schools. Handwashing with soap among school children was low at baseline (4%), increasing to 68% the day after the Nudges were completed and 74% at both two and six weeks after intervention.
Global Handwashing Partnership (2017): FAQ: Using Nudges to Encourage Handwashing with Soap
Dreibelbis, R., Kroeger, A. et al. (2016): Behavior Change without Behavior Change Communication: Nudging Handwashing among Primary School Students in Bangladesh, International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
Neal, D., Vujcic, J. et al. (2016): Nudging and Habit Change for Open Defecation: New Tactics from Behavioral Science, WSP World Bank