Thursday, February 09, 2012

Nudge theory trials 'are working' say officials

BBC Website 8 February 2012

Nudge theory  involves making minor changes in communications such using simpler language in letters, highlighting key messages and stressing "social norms." Trials have been taking place across a number of UK government departments, and it appears that some of these are working by boosting compliance and reducing fraud, error and debt.

Eight trials have shown that "relatively minor changes to processes, forms and language can have a significant positive impact on behaviour". A local authority saved £240,000 on false council tax claims. Letters from Revenue and Customs.that emphasised "social norms" produced a 15% higher response rate than the standard letter. Including images of untaxed vehicles in demands for payment of duties had proved successful.

Examples of the ideas being tried include:

  • Using handwritten fonts to personalise letters
  • Asking people to complete an "honesty code" in letters
  • Sending a "thank you" letter to people who have complied
  • Highlighting key information in bold or "strong" colours
  • Using lotteries or prize draws to encourage people to pay tax returns early
  • Linking tax evasion to the impact on council services
  • Naming and shaming late payers on a website

The report summarising these findings is available at The Cabinet Office"

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