A Masterclass in Nudge Theory from the NHS

9th June, 2021

A Masterclass in Nudge Theory from the NHS

If you’re here in the UK, you might have got a text from the NHS about your vaccine.


Behavioural scientist Patrick Fagan pointed out on Twitter recently that it’s a masterclass in ‘nudging’ – i.e. getting people to subtly do what you want.


He spotted ‘six powerful nudges packed into one short sentence’. 

The annotated notes read:


Commitment (‘reached’): Make people feel invested so they are more likely to follow through.


Scarcity (‘priority’): Make the resource feel scarce so people feel an urgency to obtain it.


Authority (‘NHS’): Use a credible or liked messenger so people accept the message.


Ego (‘top’): Motivate behaviour by tapping into the need for social status.


Social Proof (‘queue’): Make the behaviour seem popular so people assume it must be good.


Reciprocity (‘free’): Make people feel indebted so they are more likely to comply.


(Thanks to my brilliant graphic designer Sophie Karaer for sharing this. )


Other Tweeters pointed out additional nudges, e.g. the use of “yours” suggests the recipient already owns the vaccine and is just claiming what he/she already has (known as The Endowment Effect).


I’d also add the word ‘now’ conveys urgency & FOMO. And ‘priority’ talks to ego as well as scarcity – after all, who doesn’t want to be a VIP?


So my challenge for you is how can YOU use some of these nudges (Commitment, Scarcity, Authority, Ego, Social Proof, Reciprocity, Urgency, Endowment Effect) in your own communications to get people to act?

University of Cambridge


Get Your Epic Email Checklist

Enter your name and email address to get your indispensable checklist and follow-up emails.

By signing up you consent to receiving regular emails from me (Kim Arnold) with updates, tips and ideas on communication along with the occasional promotion for my products. You can, of course, unsubscribe at any time. Click here for my detailed privacy policy.