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Expert Take: How Behavioral Nudges Impact Organizations

Behavioral scientists have explored how certain nudges can influence individual behavior, but can those principles be applied to entire organizations? Nina Mazar, marketing professor and co-director of the Susilo Institute For Ethics In The Global Economy, explains her recent research into behavioral nudges on organizations and key findings for business leaders in this Insights@Questrom Expert Take.


About Our Expert

Nina Mazar
Professor, Marketing
Co-Director, Susilo Institute For Ethics In The Global Economy

Boston University Questrom School of Business

I’m a behavioral scientist, named one of “The 40 Most Outstanding B-School Profs Under 40 In The World” (Poets&Quants, 2014). With my focus on behavioral economics, I investigate how expectations, emotions, peers, and random cues in the environment affect how we think about products, money, investments, and morality, and their implications for welfare, development, and policy. My research topics range from the dishonesty of honest people to irrational attraction to free products, the paradoxes of green behavior, tax compliance, organ and blood donation, and nudges to reduce credit card delinquency. I was nominated for the SSHRC Aurora Prize for “Outstanding New Researcher” in Canada, and am the recipient of several teaching and research awards, including the William F. O’Dell Award of AMA’s Journal of Marketing Research (for having made the most significant, long-term contribution to marketing theory, methodology, and/or practice with my 2008 JMR paper on Dishonesty).

I have published my research in leading academic journals like the Journal of Marketing Research, Psychological Sciences, Review of Economic Studies, and the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Popular accounts of my work have appeared among others on NPR, BBC, in the New York Times, Financial Times, Wired, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, and Harvard Business Review’s Breakthrough Ideas. Other popular accounts of my work have been featured in the New York Times bestsellers Drive by Daniel Pink as well as Predictably Irrational, The Upside of Irrationality, The (Honest) Truth about Dishonesty, and Money and Sense by Dan Ariely, and in the 2015 documentary movie (Dis)Honesty—The Truth About Lies by Yael Melamede.

Aside from my research, I have given public talks on topics involving various aspects of consumer behavior, behavioral economics, ethics, and policy. Engagements include the Canada Revenue Agency, European Commission, OECD, Toyota, Google Ventures, and TEDxToronto.

Most recently, I acted as the senior behavioral scientist of the World Bank’s behavioral insights team (eMBeD) in Washington DC, with which I am still affiliated. Additionally, I serve as advisor on boards of various government and non-for-profit organizations (past and current engagements include the Privy Council Office Innovation Hub for Behavioral Economics in Canada, the Austrian Minister for Family and Youth, and Irrational Labs in San Francisco, CA).

Before joining academia I worked with a spin-off of KPMG as a management consultant in Europe. Before becoming a professor, I was a post-doctoral associate and lecturer in marketing at MIT Sloan School of Management and the MIT Media Lab (Dan Ariely’s eRationality Group).