The effectiveness of nudging: A meta-analysis of choice architecture interventions across behavioral domains

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2022 Jan 4;119(1):e2107346118. doi: 10.1073/pnas.2107346118.


Over the past decade, choice architecture interventions or so-called nudges have received widespread attention from both researchers and policy makers. Built on insights from the behavioral sciences, this class of behavioral interventions focuses on the design of choice environments that facilitate personally and socially desirable decisions without restricting people in their freedom of choice. Drawing on more than 200 studies reporting over 450 effect sizes (n = 2,149,683), we present a comprehensive analysis of the effectiveness of choice architecture interventions across techniques, behavioral domains, and contextual study characteristics. Our results show that choice architecture interventions overall promote behavior change with a small to medium effect size of Cohen's d = 0.45 (95% CI [0.39, 0.52]). In addition, we find that the effectiveness of choice architecture interventions varies significantly as a function of technique and domain. Across behavioral domains, interventions that target the organization and structure of choice alternatives (decision structure) consistently outperform interventions that focus on the description of alternatives (decision information) or the reinforcement of behavioral intentions (decision assistance). Food choices are particularly responsive to choice architecture interventions, with effect sizes up to 2.5 times larger than those in other behavioral domains. Overall, choice architecture interventions affect behavior relatively independently of contextual study characteristics such as the geographical location or the target population of the intervention. Our analysis further reveals a moderate publication bias toward positive results in the literature. We end with a discussion of the implications of our findings for theory and behaviorally informed policy making.

Keywords: behavior change; behavioral insights; choice architecture; meta-analysis; nudge.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Behavior*
  • Choice Behavior* / classification
  • Food Preferences
  • Humans
  • Intention