Societal Well-Being: Embedding Nudges in Sustainable Cultural Practices

  • Marco TagliabueEmail author
  • Ingunn Sandaker
Regular Article


This study provides a behavior-analytic framework for a previous nudging experiment from Kallbekken and Sælen (Economics Letters 119(3), 325–327, 2013). We are concerned with achieving societal well-being from a selection-of-cultures perspective, and we call for increasing synergies between the 2 fields. The original experiment achieved a 20% reduction in food waste among restaurant customers by implementing 2 independent nudges: reducing plate size and socially approving multiple servings. We use this experiment as an example to introduce an analysis of the social contingencies (metacontingencies) responsible for not only establishing but also maintaining sustainable behavioral repertoires. We show how reducing food waste can be a simple, economic, effective example of a behavioral intervention when programmed with contingencies of cooperation. Furthermore, we generalize our model to social architectures that create and sustain cultural practices. Namely, our model addresses the long-term effects of nudging as a result of cooperation between stakeholders and how these effects are maintained by feedback loops. Whereas the aggregate effect of individual choice behavior can affect food consumption significantly, it may not suffice to change an enduring cultural practice. We argue that a behavior-analytic approach in studying complex systems informs nudging applications at the policy-making level.


Nudging Metacontingency Food waste Cooperation Choice architecture Environment Macrocontingency 



The authors would like to thank Nicholas J. Bergin and Gunnar Ree; this work would not have been complete without their dedication. The authors would also like to thank the anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments.


This work has been financially supported by OsloMet - Oslo Metropolitan University (earlier Oslo and Akershus University College of Applied Sciences).

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Copyright Information

The use and reprint of Table 1 is authorized by the original publisher (Elsevier) with license number 4003061329299.

Conflict of Interest

The contents of this manuscript were first presented at the Eighth Conference of the European Association for Behaviour Analysis, hosted in Enna, Italy, on September 16, 2016. The authors declare that there is no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

This article does not contain any studies with human participants or animals performed by any of the authors.


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Copyright information

© Association for Behavior Analysis International 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Behavioural SciencesOsloMet - Oslo Metropolitan UniversityOsloNorway

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