A Nudge Psychology Perspective on Digital Marketing and Communication: Learning From the Nigerian Scam

A Nudge Psychology Perspective on Digital Marketing and Communication: Learning From the Nigerian Scam

Till Neuhaus
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-6799-9.ch007
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The Nigerian scam is widely regarded as a joke among digital natives. However, forms and variations of the Nigerian scam have been successful since the 16th century and continue to be so, even in the 21st century. The longevity of the scam hints at the exploitation of very basic human processes. Therefore, this chapter tries to analyze these processes from a psychological standpoint trying to derive principles for effective online communication. The different phases of the scam—from the creation of the target group until the final contact—are analyzed from psychology of persuasion as well as behavior economics standpoints—subsumed under the label of “nudging”—trying to identify the settings, scenarios, framings, and signals which make the scam one of the most successful scams in history. In the final section, it will be attempted to transfer the insights from the Nigerian scam to legit online marketing and corporate communication.
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The referential framework employed in this paper to conceptualize human decision-making is based on the concept of “Nudging” (Thaler & Sunstein 2017). Nudge theory assumes that human beings consult different modes of decision-making in cases of uncertainty. These modes were conceptualized as system 1 and system 2 by Daniel Kahneman (2012). Instead of system 1 and 2, Thaler & Sunstein (2017, 34) coined the terms Humans (for system 1) and Econs (for system 2) as they associate the traits of system 1 with rather irrational and thereby human behavior while system 2 represents a more analytical, rational-choice-like approach. Thaler and Sunstein associate the rational way of thinking with the discipline of economics. However, Kahneman as well as Thaler and Sunstein describe the same differentiation. System 1/Humans is intuitive, uncontrolled, decides fast, is highly associative, and uses props and cues it has learned. On the contrary, system 2/Econs is rule-governed, highly reflective, slow, conscious, and controlled (Thaler & Sunstein 2017, 34). This systemization of decision-making is the psychological explanation for and differentiation between the blink vs. think dichotomy (Gladwell 2005).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Nudge: The conscious modification of a decision scenario.

System 1/Humans: The intuitive and fast mode of decision-making.

Decision Architecture: All aspects/influences the decision-maker can consult in his/her decision-scenario.

Scam: Fraudulent activity aiming at the victimization of people

Behavioral Economics: Academic discipline which researches human’s deviances from rational decision-making.

System 2/Econs: The rational, reflected, and slow mode of decision-making.

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