The Ethical Risks of Behavioural Science

How to Avoid Its Misuse
  • Helena Rubinstein


Behavioural science is a powerful tool that can influence behaviour and for this reason there should be guidelines to ensure that it is used ethically. In this chapter, Rubinstein outlines the debate about the ethics of nudging in the public sector where, despite being used to promote good behaviour, it has been accused of ‘soft paternalism’ and the removal of free choice. She argues that although people are suspicious of its use in the private sector, there is a precedent for self-regulation and good use. Behavioural science in the private sector does not have to be deceitful, covert or manipulative. Furthermore, consumers have a different relationship with private companies than they have with policy makers. To avoid potential misuse, she suggests five guidelines to help practitioners make better decisions.


Behavioural research Ethical guidelines Soft paternalism 


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Helena Rubinstein
    • 1
  1. 1.Innovia Technology LtdCambridgeUK

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