Lured Toward the Right Choice

Illustration by Dan Page for TIME

If you want people to use less energy, you could make it very expensive--or you could just let them know how much they use in comparison with their neighbors. When that bit of information was added to electric bills in San Marcos, Calif., heavy users quickly lowered their consumption, even though no one had asked them to. To borrow a term from behavioral economist Richard Thaler and legal scholar Cass Sunstein, the good people of San Marcos had been nudged.

In NUDGE: IMPROVING DECISIONS ABOUT HEALTH, WEALTH, AND HAPPINESS (Yale University Press; 293 pages), the two University of Chicago professors sketch...

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