Choice architecture

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Choice architecture describes the way in which decisions may (and can) be influenced by how the choices are presented (in order to influence the outcome), and is a term used by Cass Sunstein and economist Richard Thaler in the 2008 book Nudge: Improving Decisions about Health, Wealth, and Happiness.[1] Parallels are drawn between choice architecture and traditional architecture.

'Choice architecture' concept[edit]

Choice architecture seeks to affect outcomes through the manner in which the person or organization presents the choice to the decision-maker. For example, nations that require citizens to opt-out of organ transplant donation have a significantly higher organ-donor rate than nations where the citizens must affirmatively choose to take part (opt-in).[2] Another technique suggested is laying out various outcomes of a decision in a way that is easy for the choice-maker to understand. The literature on choice architecture builds a framework[3] to distinguish between two types of tools that choice architects can use: those that structure a choice in a certain way, and tools that make use of how options are presented to decision-makers. To illustrate, the use of a default, where the default option will lead to a more socially desirable outcome, is an example of structuring choices. The way in which options are categorized and then presented to a decision-maker is an example of presenting options in a way that influences choice.

The concept of choice architecture exists in a number of fields. See for example the work of B. J. Fogg on computers as persuasive technologies; the concept of permission marketing as described by Seth Godin; and as shaping operations[4] in military science. Choice Architecture is also similar to the concept of "heresthetics," or manipulation that changes outcomes without changing people's underlying preferences, described by political scientist William H. Riker. Choice architecture has been implemented in several public and private policy domains. Variants of the Save More Tomorrow Plan (conceived by Richard Thaler and Shlomo Benartzi), which has individuals commit in advance to allocate a portion of future salary increases to savings, have been adopted by companies to increase employee retirement savings.[5]


  • Choice architect is the person who frames the options (for example, someone who chooses how allied products are displayed in a supermarket).
  • Libertarian paternalism is the idea that it is both possible and legitimate for private and public institutions to affect behavior while also respecting freedom of choice.[6]

See also[edit]


Selected publications[edit]

  • Johnson, E. J. & Goldstein, D. G. (2003). Do defaults save lives? Science, 302, 1338-1339.
  • Johnson, E.J., Shu, S.B., Dellaert, B.G.C., Fox, C., Goldstein, D.G., Haeubl, G., Larrick, R.P., Payne, J.W., Schkade, D., Wansink, B., & Weber, E.U. (2013). Beyond nudges: Tools of a choice architecture. Marketing Letters, 23, 487-504.

External links[edit]