A whole series of cognitive biases prevent us from making rational decisions: conformity, aversion to loss, excessive self-esteem, preference for the short-term, etc.
In many countries, governments have adopted this credo, promoted by economists and behavioral psychologists, in order to guide individuals' choices. It is therefore standard practice to consider individuals potential organ donors by default, children are kept away from junk food in school canteens, flies are stuck to urinals to help men improve their aim, speed detectors frown or smile at us, and we are told that we recycle less than our neighbors….
These "nudges" toward good behavior use individuals' cognitive bias to modify their behavior without them needing to think, or even understand the stakes. Easy to implement and inexpensive, they have become the alpha and omega of resolving social problems, whether in terms of environment, health, finance or tax.
Yet is it not just as biased to reduce these issues to a matter of individual behavior? We need a critical analysis of behavioral knowledge and its applications, in order to understand its success and explore its limitations.