Nudging and experimenting in a post-truth, post-COVID world

Peter John*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


This chapter reviews the historical development of randomized controlled trials (RCTs) and behavioural change policies (behavioural insights [BI]) as the "twins of modern public policy evaluation". It notes how trials moved from complex evaluations, usually of social policies, to more rapid and generic testing, aided by the growing popularity of BI, using examples from the United Kingdom and the United States, Europe, as well as Australia. Concurrent with this growing popularity of robust evaluation, challenges to scientific hegemony have emerged through movements that question the authority of facts and give great value to intuition and popular feelings about policy, leading to what is called the "post- truth world". Also, BI may be seen as essential liberal paternalist in that they are used to decide policies for people and then seeks to manipulate them, using RCTs to achieve a predetermined outcome decided by scientific experts. This appears to be just the kind of policy that populist leaders would seek to resist, but evidence suggests continuing popularity of such nudge policies. One answer to this paradox is that nudges and the use of RCTs are probably less top-down than they commonly appear and imply policymaking informed by trial-and-errors.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationHandbook of Public Policy Evaluation
EditorsFrédéric Varone, Steve Jacob, Pirmin Bundi
PublisherEdward Elgar Publishing Ltd
Number of pages14
ISBN (Electronic)9781800884892
ISBN (Print)9781800884885
Publication statusPublished - 19 Oct 2023

Publication series

NameHandbooks of Research on Public Policy
PublisherEdward Elgar Publishing Ltd


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