Shame, vanity, laziness and the desire to fit in are all to be used as tools of Government policy by ministers acting on the advice of a new psychology unit in Whitehall.
Similarly, tax officials who reinforce "norms" dramatically increase their collection rates. The authorities tend to be "quite aggressive and assertive" when chasing late payers, Dr Halpern said. "We will send you a rude letter and say: 'We're going to come and find you and break down your door and take away your children.' So [HMRC] officials had been reading a bit of [nudge] literature and they changed letters on just one block of letters [chasing] £600m in unpaid tax.
"The normal repayment rate is about 50 per cent. The [new] letter says: '94 per cent of people pay their tax on time', so now you emphasis the underlying social norm – and then: 'Even if one person doesn't it has a significant impact'. The repayment rate went up to 85 per cent, [collecting] £200m just in that experiment."