Nudging citizens’ knowledge in knowledge-based EU: the case of breast cancer screening programmes and participatory rights in choice architectures

Luca Leone, Mariachiara Tallacchini*

*Corresponding author

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


This chapter deals with the meaning of European citizenship, how it has been politically and legally framed, and its relations to nudging. In the passage from the prevailing economic foundation of the European Communities to their (unfinished) transformation into a political entity, the EU started evoking European citizenship as a major element in legitimizing the related forms of techno-scientific and political innovation. At least in principle, the EU vision of citizenship has been committed towards active citizen participation and engagement in the knowledge-based society. However, from the White Paper on European Governance (CEC 2001) to the Better Regulation Agenda (EC 2015), the need to revise and speed up legislation has altered this meaning of citizenship. Although the cognitive and normative challenges of governance call for more democratic citizen participation in the production, control and validation of scientific knowledge, the actual use of knowledge and power in European governance seems to proceed towards a different direction. As nudge was framed having in mind the notion of consumer, it fails to fully meet the values connected to the idea of citizenship. Most nudging strategies imply soft, but still top down, paternalism, where pre-identified and often black-boxed values pretend to define individual and collective directions, with little attention paid to wrong assumptions, biases, potential mistakes, unforeseen developments in society, timely corrections. The two cases taken from the domain of health (breast cancer screening) and digital privacy allow reflection on how nudging can lie, and also be hidden, at the core of a regulatory framework and not merely facilitate its implementation; how rights themselves can be commodified in the marketplace; how the idea of having rights remains ambiguous if rights protection is somehow imposed rather than offered to citizens. This is especially true when uncertain, controversial knowledge is at the basis of nudge policies, namely when the authoritative choice made by regulators depends on arbitrarily taking for granted the validity/reliability of specific scientific evidence.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationHandbook of Behavioural Change and Public Policy
EditorsSilke Beck Holger Straßheim
Number of pages15
Publication statusPublished - 2019


  • Behavioral sciences
  • Nudge
  • breast cancer screening
  • digital architectures


Dive into the research topics of 'Nudging citizens’ knowledge in knowledge-based EU: the case of breast cancer screening programmes and participatory rights in choice architectures'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this