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Can ‘Nudges’ Transform Learning and Behavior Change?

I was thrilled this morning to listen to the latest NPR TED Radio Hour podcast entitled “What Is A Nudge?”

As a bit of background, I came across Rich Thaler’s book, “Nudge” more than 5 years ago and it was likely the most important book I have ever read. Not only did the book change so much about how I see the world, but it also opened up infinite professional/research ideas!

There would be no Learning Actions Research program without Thaler’s work.

There would be no Learning Actions Model (my new instructional design framework) without reading the book.

And there would be no ArcheMedX without being curious about the value of nudges in learning.

For those wholly unfamiliar with what has come to be called ‘Nudge Science’ – nudges are subtle devices that push a person to make the decision or engage in a behavior that is in their best interest (even when they can’t effectively balance all the variables) without restricting their ability to choose.

Nearly a decade of research have demonstrated that nudges can improve savings behaviors, increase donor program participation (including organ donor programs), increase healthy eating, and decrease smoking (and other mild addictions). And now, over the past 3 years, we have been able to demonstrate unequivocally that nudges can be used to improve the efficacy of educational interventions and learning.

So…for what it is worth, I can not recommend strongly enough, please take the time to listen to this podcast – in the car, on the beach, at the pool, wherever!

Embracing the ideas that are explored within this podcast will almost certainly change the way you see the world…it certainly did for me!


Written by

Brian is a research scientist and educational technologist. He helped transform Pfizer’s Medical Education Group and previously served in educational leadership roles at HealthAnswers, Inc.; Acumentis, LLC.; Cephalon; and Wyeth. He taught graduate medical education programs at Arcadia University for 10 years. Dr. McGowan recently authored the book "#socialQI: Simple Solutions for Improving Your Healthcare" and has been invited to speak internationally on the subject of information flow, technology, and learning in healthcare.

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