Are Health Nudges Coercive?

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Governments and policy-makers have of late displayed renewed attention to behavioural research in an attempt to achieve a range of policy goals, including health promotion. In particular, approaches which could be labelled as 'nudges' have gained traction with policy-makers. A range of objections to nudging have been raised in the literature. These include claims that nudges undermine autonomy and liberty, may lead to a decrease in responsibility in decision-making, lack transparency, involve deception, and involve manipulation, potentially occasioning coercion. In this article I focus on claims of coercion, examining nudges within two of the main approaches to coercion-the pressure approach and the more recent enforcement approach. I argue that coercion entails an element of control over the behaviour of agents which is not plausibly displayed by the kinds of serious examples of nudges posited in the literature.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)141-158
Number of pages19
JournalMonash Bioethics Review
Issue number1-2
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2014


  • Coercion
  • Decision Making
  • Health Behavior
  • Health Policy
  • Health Promotion
  • Humans
  • Motivation
  • Persuasive Communication
  • United Kingdom
  • Journal Article
  • Nudges
  • Behavioural research


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