Provisional Programme & Abstracts

Thursday 20th: 1pm Welcome coffee

1.15-2.15 Till Grüne-Yanoff "The importance of mechanistic evidence for the normative evaluation of behavioral public policy"

2.30-3.30 Christine Clavien "Evaluation framework for nudging interventions: an application to the case of default organ donation"

3.45-4.45 Bart Engelen & Thomas Nys "Nudging and Autonomy: A Case-by-Case Analysis"

5.00-6.00 Karen Renaud 
"The Ethics of Nudging In Information Privacy & Security"

7pm Conference Dinner
Friday, 21st September

10-11 Luc Bovens "Nudge and Charitable Giving"

11.15-12.15 Amanda Cawston "Nudging Children"
Lunch (12.15-1.15)
1.15-2.15 Erik Angner "Nudging as Design"

2.30-3.30 Liam Delaney & Leo Lades "Towards an Ethical Toolkit for Behavioural Public Policy"


Till Grüne-Yanoff
Behavioral policies have been evaluated the basis of a number of normatively desirable properties. Amongst others, critics have discussed the impact of behavioral interventions on human welfare, autonomy, dignity, self-government, non-manipulation, transparency and liberty (for surveys, see Barton & Grüne-Yanoff 2015, Sunstein 2016). While these debates acknowledge different normative criteria, and possible trade-offs between them, they fail to address whether and how these evaluations are sensitive both to the specifics of the policy intervention itself as well as to the features of the environment in which they are implemented. In this paper, I will first show that policies’ satisfaction of the most relevant normative properties is sensitive to mechanistic detail, which in turn will be determined both by the particulars of the policy intervention and the environment in which it is applied. Second, I will begin the larger project of cataloging the features of the processes and environments that cause these sensitivities in normative evaluations. Such a catalogue will ultimately serve to support pragmatic policy-making in helping it to prevent ethically problematic policy choice.

Amanda Cawston
It may seem that using nudge theory to promote behavioural outcomes in children would be a comparatively uncontroversial application of nudging. As children are not generally thought of as autonomous agents, the primary worry associated with nudging, that nudging interferes with autonomy, seems to not apply. Similarly, nudging children avoids libertarian concerns about paternalism which is generally thought permissible and even morally required in order to protect children’s interests. This paper takes issue with these presumptions, highlighting a number of distinct worries regarding the potential risks of nudging children. First, drawing on work by Mullin, we defend the view that even young children possess forms of autonomy that ought to be respected (within limits) and that, as a consequence, familiar worries concerning autonomy and paternalism re-emerge in the case of nudging children. Second, we argue that recognition of children’s developing faculties reveals new concerns regarding nudging. For instance, how might nudging affect the development of the capacities related to autonomy? We argue that nudging has the potential to both support and undermine autonomy development, and that this potential needs to be considered when designing nudge strategies for children. Finally, we explore how recognition of these worries can prompt a re-evaluation of how we think about nudging adults. Specifically, we contend that they suggest possible new roles for nudging in the support and maintenance of autonomy in adults, and also indicate the need for choice architects to consider how a nudge strategy may affect developing or vulnerable forms of autonomy.

Adam Oliver

Karen Renaud
There has recently been an upsurge of interest in the deployment of behavioural economics techniques in the information security and privacy domain. I will consider the nudge, and the way it exercises its influence then talk about the ethical ramifications of nudging, in its broadest sense. I will present some guidelines for deploying nudging in information security and privacy studies. The guidelines are intended to provide guidance to ethics review boards as well as to researchers in this field.

Luc Bovens
In the 2016 Code of Good Fundraising Practice it is stipulated that fundraising should be true to purpose, respect informed decision-making, express concern for vulnerable people, respect privacy, and refrain from undue pressure. There are various BIT experiments on charitable giving and charity campaigns based on behavioural insights, such as the OXFAM and KIVA campaigns, that aim to increase donations. My question is: Do these experiments and campaigns satisfy the principles laid out in the Code of Good Fundraising Practice? Furthermore, in what way are nudges that aim to increase charitable donations in the interest of the nudgee? 

Christine Clavien
Most nudging interventions are not, per se, ethically acceptable or problematic. Their social and ethical status may vary greatly according to contextual features, which makes it difficult to produce clear and simple ethical guidelines. In order to address this difficulty, I have developed a general ethical framework for evaluating the acceptability of particular nudges (Clavien 2018) . In this talk, I will take the current debate over presumed consent in Switzerland as a test case for applying this evaluation framework.
Organs donated for transplantation are a scarce resource in many countries. All over the world, numerous patients die every year while waiting for a transplant. Facing this difficulty, countries struggle to find more efficient procedures and policies. One policy that is increasingly enforced around the world (and currently discussed at the Parliament of England) is the presumed consent (i.e. opt-out) system for organ donation. Such a system involves that every individual is considered as a potential organ donor except in case of expressed refusal during lifetime. Such a policy is a “default nudge”: by setting organ donation as the default option, it nudges citizens towards donation, while leaving them free to refuse.
In 2019, Swiss citizens will likely be asked to vote in favour or against an initiative called "Saving lives by promoting organ donation" which is about introducing a presumed consent law for organ donation. The project of such a law however has raised serious controversies since it has been formulated years ago. In 2012 for instance, the National Advisory Commission on Biomedical Ethics, one of the most prominent ethics committee in the country, has taken a stance against such a law. The committee members unanimously concluded that there were no grounds for altering the existing legal framework (i.e. explicit consent model) and grounded their decision on various reasons including (1) the thought that a presumed consent law would violate individuals’ right to make autonomous decisions over their own body, (2) the lack of scientific evidences indicating that a presumed consent system would lead to an increase in donations, (3) the fact that presumed consent would represent a departure from the traditional federal neutrality principle which is important in Swiss politics. Following a four-level ethical investigation, I will evaluate the acceptability of the presumed consent law in Switzerland.

Bart Engelen & Thomas Nys
In this paper, based on joint work with Thomas Nys, I go into what is perhaps the most widespread criticism of nudges: the claim that they violate, undermine or decrease people’s (personal) autonomy. Since this claim is seldom backed up or informed by explicit and detailed conceptions of autonomy, I will try to clean up the resulting conceptual confusion and separate out different conceptions in the works of both Cass Sunstein and his main critics. On a case-by-case basis, I assess to what extent prototypical nudge techniques raise real worries about autonomy. One important distinction is that between autonomy as the ability to set your own ends and autocracy as the ability to actually realize those ends. Which specific nudge interventions threaten autonomy and/or autocracy? Why do we value autonomy and autocracy? And how do we weigh off the autocracy of some against the autonomy of others? In the end, I argue that nudging can actually be criticized for overly promoting autonomy. The claim that people may sometimes need a break from autonomy, however, is directed only at a nudge-world, not to specific implementations of nudge techniques.

Erik Angner
This paper explores the analogy between nudging and design. The analogy shows that much of the critique of the nudge agenda is overstated, and in particular, that there is no convincing principled argument against nudging in general. The analogy with design also suggests novel avenues of future research. 

Liam Delaney & Leo Lades
Behavioural change frameworks such as MINDSPACE have presented policymakers with a range of options to change human behaviour yet often focus on effectiveness without explicit and salient prompting of ethical considerations. Furthermore a large philosophical literature has emerged on ethical considerations on nudging human behaviour that has presented key challenges for the area but is regularly omitted from discussion of policy design and administration. This paper presents an ethical framework for behavioural public policy interventions. It is designed to capture the key considerations in the philosophical debate about nudging human behaviour, while also being accessible for use in a range of public policy settings, as well as training. We overview the key features of the ethics framework: fairness, autonomy, evidence reliability, transparency, effectiveness, public support, non-manipulation, accountability, and harm avoidance. We discuss the potential advantages of this framework as well as the limitations of attempting to reduce such a large range of considerations in this manner.