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Incentives, Nudges and the Burden of Proof in Ethical Argument
  1. Richard E Ashcroft
  1. Correspondence to : Richard E Ashcroft, Queen Mary University of London, School of Law, Mile End Road, London E1 4NS; r.ashcroft{at}

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Behaviour change is increasingly prominent in public health and social policy worldwide. The papers contributed to this special issue cite numerous examples. The kinds of intervention highlighted in this special issue range from conditional cash transfers, which make use of traditional models of social welfare payments modified to encourage particular behaviours such as school attendance, to incentives to quit smoking or complete vaccination schedules, to “nudges” which seek to affect decision-making by semi-conscious or unconscious “altering defaults” in the framing of choices. Sometimes the intention behind these interventions is to encourage agents to do things which they know they want to do, or ought to do, but find difficult to do in practice; sometimes the intention is actually to alter agents' preferences. Sometimes the intended beneficiary of the change in behaviour is the agent him or herself; sometimes it is a third party known to the agent (such as a child of the agent); sometimes it is for the benefit of more distant third parties; and sometimes it is for the general, common, or public good, however conceived. Here I am drawing attention to the …

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