The "Nudge Theory" Might Prove to Be Better Motivation for Others to Complete Tasks

Try a new approach to getting the kids to do their homework, your spouse to help with chores, or even to help yourself eat healthier.

We know that parenting successful kids usually starts with chores. What the parenting books don't tell you is how to get kids to do chores without losing your voice from asking them over and over again to get them done. It's not just kids, either: Partners, parents, and co-workers frequently need reminding about things that need to get done. It's frustrating, but before you start outsourcing your household duties to Amazon or risking ruining your manicure by doing them yourselves, you may want to try giving folks a nudge.

A nudge is a way of influencing someone's behavior without giving them an incentive (like an allowance) or requiring it (like a mandate). Nudges have been studied as part of economics and behavior science for a long time with "nudge theory" even helping garner a Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences in 2017, CNN notes. Nudges aren't just for fancy economists, though, they can also help get kids doing chores, your coworkers taking care of business, and even help you make healthier decisions at the dinner table.

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Nudges help people make the right choice by suggesting or reminding someone that they have actually have a choice. That alone can be enough to help them choose the right path. "All sorts of persuasion tools are nudges," Katy Milkman, a behavioral scientist at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, told CNN. "If I change the layout of a cafeteria to put healthy food up front, that's a nudge."

According to Milkman, a nudge can be as simple as a timely reminder. "Telling your partner in the morning to stop by the store in the afternoon will not be very effective but sending them a text just as they get into their car after work will be," she told CNN. Educational advisors EAB, suggest that nudges can be effective in a school or work environment, too. "In higher ed, nudges can take the form of texts, emails, or alerts that encourage students to complete tasks that help them succeed, such as completing enrollment or attending office hours," they write.

Another easy nudge is to make choices for the future, like planning a week of healthy meals instead of picking up fast food on the way home when you're hungry and tired. "We think much differently when we make choices for now versus later. We want the pizza now and the salad later," Milkman said. Similarly, EAB notes that it can be effective encourage "students to develop healthy academic habits by noting that students who go to the tutoring center often improve their grades and asking if students need additional support." Those nudges help students make better choices for their future selves.

The next time you find yourself going hoarse trying to get someone to empty the dishwasher, try a nudge instead.

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