Nudge Policies in COVID-19 Context: A Necessary Action or Ethical Dilemma?

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Ana Luize Correa orcid
Maria Clara Figueiredo Dalla Costa Ames orcid
Marcello Beckert Zappellini orcid


Objective: the aim of this study is to discuss nudges in the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic context, bringing back some reflections on ethics and revising them in the light of the new setting imposed by the pandemic. Theoretical approach: the theoretical framework of Behavioral Economics was the basis for nudges’ analysis, while utilitarianism, deontology, and virtue ethics were the classic moral theories used to reflect on ethical aspects. Methods: we undertook a literature review about nudges searched through the latest studies about this subject applied to COVID-19 mitigation. In the ethical discussion section, we used classical references to articulate the nudge theory with the following moral theories: utilitarianism, deontology, and virtue ethics. Results: our findings indicate that the trend intervention during the pandemic is ‘nudging messages’ and ‘increase people’s commitment,’ mainly to nudge people toward the desired behavior and increase policy adherence. Many experiments did not show significant results, and some drawbacks in policies’ applications indicate that nudges might be revised in crisis scenarios, such as a pandemic outbreak. The ethical discussion section relates three moral theories that justify some of the nudge’s aspects. Conclusions: this paper showed some flaws and inconsistencies in nudge theory and its application during the pandemic that can be solved by discussing ethical aspects. We suggest that connecting these problems with moral views might be a solution for some deadlocks found in the nudge theory.


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Correa, A. L., Ames, M. C. F. D. C., & Zappellini, M. B. (2022). Nudge Policies in COVID-19 Context: A Necessary Action or Ethical Dilemma?. Journal of Contemporary Administration, 26(5), e210033.
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