How Behavioral Nudges Can Lead to Overconsumption

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  • 0:00 Behavioral Nudges
  • 0:57 Overconsumption
  • 1:49 Dual Process Theory
  • 3:03 Lesson Summary
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Instructor: David Whitsett

David has taught computer applications, computer fundamentals, computer networking, and marketing at the college level. He has a MBA in marketing.

How susceptible are we in our daily lives to suggestions and positive reinforcement? Can a nudge here or there make us overeat or buy something we don't need? In this lesson, we'll discuss how behavioral nudges can lead to overconsumption.

Behavioral Nudges

You're buying lunch at your favorite deli and the cashier asks if you'd like to add a pastry to your order for 99 cents. Guess what? You've just been nudged! You're more likely to buy the pastry if the cashier suggests it than not. In behavioral science, nudge theory says that we can be influenced to do something by suggestions and positive reinforcement, which is providing a motivating item to encourage a behavior.

Marketers place cues in our decision-making environment to influence our behavior. For example, when you're asked if you want to super-size your order at a fast food restaurant or when you're pitched the larger drink or the bigger popcorn at the movie theater. Do we actually need these extra calories? Chances are, no, and that's where the overconsumption occurs. We take them up on their offers and then moan about the consequences after.


Overconsumption can also be a result of comparing ourselves with others socially and being envious of other's lifestyles. We might buy a new car and take on more debt than we need because of what we see in our neighbor's garage. An ad for a new pair of sneakers might cause us to buy new shoes when we don't really need them or can't afford them. There is also something called the bandwagon effect, which says that people tend to do something just because other people are doing it, sometimes ignoring their own beliefs. Do all the people standing in line to purchase a newly released cell phone on the first day really need one? Can they all really afford it? Probably not. So, overconsumption can lead us not only to overeat but to overspend and also maybe overwork, working two jobs to buy something we don't really need.

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