Self-nudging & critical ignoring

Digital boosting toolbox at the Long Night of the Sciences 2022 at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development (Berlin)

Self-nudging
Critical ignoring

Self-nudging and critical ignoring: Where they came from

The idea of self-nudging was introduced by Samuli Reijula and Ralph Hertwig in their 2020 paper, “Self-nudging and the citizen choice architect”. The approach draws inspiration from behavioral policy approach called nudging, economic research on commitment devices, and psychological research on situational control.

Critical ignoring is one way of practicing deliberate ignorance for purposes of information management. The term “critical ignoring” was coined by educational psychologist Sam Wineburg.

How do self-nudging and critical ignoring work?

Resisting the temptation to engage with attention-grabbing content can be difficult. Instead of relying on self-control, you can remove temptation altogether. Self-nudging helps people take control and organize their environments so that it fits their goals. It applies insights from the nudging approach, but sidesteps concerns that nudging may be paternalistic or manipulative because in self-nudging the person doing the nudging and the person being nudged are one and the same.

Self-nudgers understand the environmental factors that challenge their self-control and apply evidence-based principles to their own immediate environments. For example, self-nudgers could decide to keep the biscuit tin at the very back of the top shelf in their own kitchen. And just as one can remove tempting junk food from view, one can also hide addictive social media apps.

Critical ignoring also helps people control their information environment by filtering and blocking out nonessential and misleading information. Online, critical ignoring is just as important as critical thinking.

Critical ignoring is a great tactic for dealing with online trolls. Because trolls feed on attention, use the “do not feed the trolls” heuristic: Don’t respond directly to trolling—don’t correct, debate, retaliate, or troll back. Instead, block trolls and report them. For example UNICEF points out that, when bullying happens on a social media platform, one should “consider blocking the bully and formally reporting their behaviour on the platform itself”.

Example of self-nudging interventions in online environments

A summary of potential self-nudging interventions to enhance people’s control over their digital environments and their privacy protection online. Based in part on [Center for Humane Technology and Epstein (2017)](https://www.humanetech.com/take-control). Source: [Kozyreva et al (2020)](https://doi.org/10.1177/1529100620946707).
A summary of potential self-nudging interventions to enhance people’s control over their digital environments and their privacy protection online. Based in part on Center for Humane Technology and Epstein (2017). Source: Kozyreva et al (2020).