Who are we

Welfare Improvement through Nudging Knowledge (WINK):
Towards a new welfare system by nudging individual decisions about health and wellbeing 

The WINK project, funded by a TOP-grant from the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research, investigates the merits of nudging as a promising and innovative approach to public health and welfare. ‘Nudging’ translates insights from behavioral research on decision-making to policy-relevant individual choices in order to gently suggest desired choices without infringing upon autonomy of individuals. It is based on the understanding that individual choices are generally driven by heuristic processes to which the presentation of alternatives can be attuned. Nudging refers to a variety of techniques with which governments and other agents (‘choice architects’) may guide individual choices in order to improve decision outcomes. Nudging is based on ‘libertarian paternalism’, which respects individual free choice (libertarian) but suggest the most sensible choices to individuals (paternalistic). The program focuses on public health and healthy lifestyle choices. Nudging is a highly promising alternative to existing policies, as it may be more effective, less intrusive and less costly. However, systematic research is lacking that investigates the effectiveness of various nudges, their normative acceptability and practical feasibility for public policies. This research program is a systematic empirical investigation of these three issues by a multidisciplinary research team, featuring psychologists, communication, ethics and public administration

Research Projects

Because of their significant potential to facilitate desired choices in a way that does not require conscious effort while respecting individual autonomy, WINK entails a comprehensive research program on nudges as socially innovative techniques to promote health and wellbeing in three distinct but substantively connected projects:

Project 1: Effectiveness of nudging

This project examines the effectiveness of nudges in challenging contexts. Whilst previous research has yielded promising results with regard to nudges’ potential to affect behavior, most studies have been conducted in simple controlled settings with only short-term follow up. This project examines long-term effectiveness of nudges in complex settings with conflicting cues, also taking into consideration potentially important moderators of effectiveness such as consumer awareness of nudge presence and consumer goals.

Project 2: Legitimacy of nudging

This project studies the legitimacy of nudging in a public health context. From an ethical viewpoint there are two important questions to be answered if nudging is to be included in public health policy. First, to what extent do different nudging strategies affect individual autonomy of people? Second, to what extent is nudging considered acceptable or even morally required to influence people’s choice in such a way that health risks will decrease? Both questions will be addressed based on a philosophical/ethical analysis in combination with empirical studies.

Project 3: Feasibility of nudging

The third project focuses on the governance of the potential transformation toward nudging in welfare states. Governments fulfill a dual role in nudging citizens toward healthier lifestyle choices. Governments are both ‘choice architects’ of their own when they affect lifestyle choices of citizens directly, and indirect choice architects insofar government policies affect the broad network of direct choice architects, ranging from supermarkets and canteens (for healthy food choices), to architects and urban planners (for nudges in the physical environment) and public health institutions and health insurance companies.

Research Team


Utrecht University, Department of Social Health and Organizational Psychology

 Denise de Ridder, professor of health psychology (d.t.d.deridder@uu.nl)

 Floor Kroese, assistant professor (f.m.kroese@uu.nl)

 Tina Venema, PhD candidate (a.g.venema@uu.nl)


Utrecht University, Department of Philosophy

 Mariëtte van den Hoven, associate professor (m.a.vandenhoven@uu.nl)


Utrecht University School of Governance

 Paul ’t Hart, professor of public administration (p.thart@uu.nl)

 Thomas Schillemans, associate professor (t.schillemans@uu.nl)

 Joram Feitsma PhD candidate (j.n.p.feitsma@uu.nl)


Wageningen University, Department of Communication, Philosophy and Technology

 Emely de Vet, professor of health communication (emely.devet@wur.nl)

 Marcel Verweij, professor of philosophy (marcel.verweij@wur.nl)

 Anastasia Vugts, PhD candidate (anastasia.vugts@wur.nl)


Consortium Partners

The WINK research team collaborates in a consortium with five of the most important policy actors in the field of public policy, public health and welfare:

  • Netherlands School for Public Policy (Nederlandse School voor Openbaar Bestuur): Jorren Scherpenisse
  • Council for Public Health and Health Care (Raad voor de Volksgezondheid en Samenleving): Marieke ten Have, Jasper Zuure
  • National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (Rijks Instituut voor Volksgezondheid en Milieuhygiëne): Fons van der Lucht, Else Zantinge
  • Netherlands Scientific Council for Government Policy (Wetenschappelijke Raad voor het Regeringsbeleid): Will Tiemeijer
  • Department of Public Health, City council Utrecht (Volksgezondheid Gemeente Utrecht): Niek Verlaan, Nicolas Takken


  • De Ridder, D.T.D., & Gillebaart, M. 92015). Wetenschappelijk kader Nudging in de publieke gezondheidszorg. Den Haag: ZonMw.
  • De Ridder, D.T.D., & Gillebaart, M. (2016) What’s in a nudge? Tien aanbevelingen voor nudge-experimenten in de openbare gezondheidszorg. TSG [in druk]
  • De Ridder, D.T.D., Kroese, F.M., & De Vet, E. (2016). Nudging: Next Questions. Bestuurskunde [in druk]
  • De Vet, E., Kroese, F.M., Schillemans, T., & De Ridder, D.T.D. (2015). Nudging: Een opinieverkenning onder gezondheidsprofessionals. TSG, 93 (8), 298-299.
  • Junghans, A.F., Cheung, T.T.L., & De Ridder, D.T.D. (2015). Under consumers’ scrutiny: An investigation into consumers’ attitudes and concerns about nudging in the realm of health behavior. BMC Public Health, 15, 336.
  • Kroese, F.M., Marchiori, D.R., & De Ridder, D.T.D. (2015). Nudging healthy food choices: A field experiment at the train station. Journal of Public Health, 1-5.
  • Maas, J., De Ridder, D.T.D., De Vet, E., & De Wit, J.B.F. (2012). Do distant foods decrease intake? The effect of food accessibility on consumption. Psychology & Health, 27, 59-73.
  • Salmon, S.J., De Vet, E., Adriaanse, M.A., Fennis, B.M., Veltkamp, M., & De Ridder, D.T.D. (2015). Social proof in the supermarket: Promoting healthy choices under low self-control conditions. Food Quality and Preference, 45, 113-120.


Netherlands Nudging Network

Want to know more about nudging in the Netherlands? Learn all about it at the Netherlands Nudging Network linked in group (in Dutch), hosted by the WINK project: https://www.linkedin.com/groups/8189681.