Choice architecture

Choice architecture is the design of different ways in which choices can be presented to consumers, and the impact of that presentation on consumer decision-making. For example, each of the following:

  • the number of choices presented[1]
  • the manner in which attributes are described[2]
  • the presence of a "default"[3][4]

can influence consumer choice. As a result, advocates of libertarian paternalism and asymmetric paternalism have endorsed the deliberate design of choice architecture to nudge consumers toward personally and socially desirable behaviors like saving for retirement, choosing healthier foods, or registering as an organ donor. These interventions are often justified[by whom?] in that well-designed choice architectures can compensate for irrational decision-making biases to improve consumer welfare.[5] These techniques have consequently become popular among policymakers, leading to the formation of the UK's Behavioural Insights Team and the White House "Nudge Unit" for example.[6] While many behavioral scientists stress that there is no neutral choice-architecture and that consumers maintain autonomy and freedom of choice despite manipulations of choice architecture,[7] critics of libertarian paternalism often argue that choice architectures designed to overcome irrational decision biases may impose costs on rational agents, for example by limiting choice[8] or undermining respect for individual human agency and moral autonomy.[9]