Patrick Fagan is a lecturer, author, and public speaker, and consults for brands and political campaigns around the world.

He was the lead behavioural scientist at the now-infamous Cambridge Analytica.

Cambridge Analytica was a British firm that focused on data analysis and strategic communication for politics, collecting personal information from about 87 million Facebook users via a third-party app named This Is Your Digital Life.

This data was reportedly used to create psychological profiles of voters. These profiles helped in targeted advertising to sway their political views and voting choices.

More specifically, millions of Americans were ‘nudged’ towards voting for Donald Trump in 2016.

In simpler terms, Cambridge Analytica was a company that collected lots of data on people, including what they liked, who they were friends with, and other personal details. They used this information to figure out how people might vote in an election and then created targeted ads to try and influence those voting decisions.

Their use of Facebook data without permission is what got them into trouble.

What is nudge theory?

Nudge theory is a psychological concept that explores how small changes in the way choices are presented can have a profound effect on our behaviour.

Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein introduced this theory in their book Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness.

For example, by making subtle changes in the way choices are presented, we can influence people’s decisions without restricting their freedom or resorting to coercion.

Nudge theory centres around ‘choice architecture’, which is about creating various ways to show choices to consumers and how these presentations affect their decisions.

It’s essentially psychological manipulation.

Nudges aim to gently guide people’s behaviour by the way choices are laid out. They don’t remove choice or manipulate people. A nudge works well when it makes the preferred choice the simplest or most apparent one.

Nudged people almost never notice.

Governments and media have used nudges to great success.

Simply consider the anti-Russia (or anti-China) sentiment in the West.

Consider how, for instance, Hollywood has been a US government mouthpiece for American exceptionalism and a tool for shaping opinion about Iran and Israel.

Here’s my conversation with Patrick.

Propaganda works best when those who are being manipulated are confident they are acting on their own free will.

Joseph Goebbels

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