Nudging and guided advice: The types of nudges

Oct 18, 2022

In Part I of this trilogy we discussed what nudging is, and why it is so important for financial advice. There are several ways to nudge clients. Every type of nudge leverages behavioral mechanisms that are naturally embedded in people. Even when people know they’re being nudged and are aware of the underlying behavioral patterns, these mechanisms often still work. Well discuss some of these types of nudges here.

The biggest nudge: the standard option 

People have a strong preference for the standard option offered. They rarely deviate from it. There are two ways of offering the standard option: 

  1. Offering a pre-selected option that needs an effort to deviate from. 
  2. Calling a particular option the standard option, but having the client make a conscious choice

In case of the latter, you can either

  • Force a decision: you cannot proceed in the process without making a choice. This is the obligated or active choice
  • Making the decision optional: allowing for the process to continue even without a choice. In that case, you do need a default option to fall back on in case the client skips the decision. 

The way organ donation is organized in various countries shows the workings of the standard option. The level of participation is much higher in countries where people are automatically enrolled than in countries where people need to sign up as a donor actively. Charity contributions are also higher when a higher amount is offered as a standard amount. But there are limits to this mechanism. When you push people far beyond what is comfortable to them, they disengage altogether. They don’t choose to donate less, they simply don’t donate at all. This counter-reaction to a standard option that is too pushy is called ‘reactance’. You know the feeling: that overly pushy salesperson in the store that makes you leave the store. 

The anchor 

Choices are impacted by what proceeds them. Particularly when it comes to numbers. When clients need to choose an amount, the amount is strongly influenced by the amount mentioned right before. The same goes for rating numbers. Even when the anchor number – the number preceding the choice – has no relation to the number that needs to be chosen. 

Imagine your clients needs to decide on how much money to save monthly for later. Prior to the choice, you can share a story of someone who saved 1000 euros a month. Or you could tell the same story about someone saving 250 a month. Your client will choose to save more money when you tell the 1000 euro story. The amount of 1000 euros is the anchor that serves as a reference for the personal choice. 


People choose the path of the least resistance. The easy option is chosen more. Grocery stores have been placing brand products on eye level for years. It makes it easier to buy the expensive brand. Saving money means making an effort. That is why it is important to make sure you eliminate hassle, fuss, and effort – sludge in nudging terms – from the process of making the right choice.


This one is very popular with cookie notifications. The big brightly colored button is the one with which you consent to all cookies. The small inconspicuous button is for adjusting preferences. Everything that stands out by color, size, or visibility is chosen more. 


People make choices based on what they know. Giving information is an integral part of nudging. It makes people aware of the need to make conscious decisions and allows them to make better ones. An important factor here is the availability heuristic. You can read more about that in part III of this trilogy. 


People forget stuff. Simple reminders – preferably timed when people can act on them – are very useful nudges. They are less effective than other forms of nudging, like eliminating sludge. A payment notice is a smart thing to send. A notice that includes a payment link is even smarter. 

Slowing down decisions 

People are emotional creatures. Fast decisions are almost exclusively made based on emotion. This saves lives in the jungle, by not overthinking it. But when it comes to complex decisions, it is often good to base them on rational considerations. Slowing down the decision-making process takes it out of the fast emotional brain and promotes rational choices. 

Effective nudging is best achieved when you understand some of the underlying behavioral patterns. You can read more on these in part III of this trilogy, coming soon. 

We’ve summarized these types in an infographic, available in both Dutch and English.

If you want to know more about how we can support nudges with Rulecube? Apply for a demo today.

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