Intentional and Unintentional Sludge

20 January 2021

Our recent article on the Behavioral Scientist platform Intentional and Unintentional Sludgeidentifies two different types of sludge; intentional and unintentional and how we can tackle them.

We previously wrote about countering sludge in 2018 (Sludge Detectives: The “BE Police” Take On Hotel Booking Sites’). This article, however, goes beyond that by identifying two different types of sludge; intentional (the dark side) and unintentional (the grey side), and puts each under the microscope.

Intentional sludge is friction put in place knowingly - such as confusing design - to benefit an organisation at the expense of the user. You might be familiar with this through (trying to) cancel subscriptions, or booking online travel.

On the other hand, unintentional sludge is unplanned friction caused by factors like poor design, clunky infrastructure, and inadequate oversight. Unintentional sludge can have equally bad (or worse) outcomes for the consumer. However, it can be a much trickier beast to catch!

A number of academics, legal experts, regulators, journalists, policymakers, and consultancies are now dedicated to fighting sludge. Looking to the future, we share our insights on the following key trends directed towards reducing and combatting sludge:

  1. our ability to identify sludge and assess sludge,
  2. a growing consumer awareness and
  3. regulating sludge by mandate and self-regulation.

As Richard Thaler said, “Less sludge will make the world a better place.”

You can read our article here, and don’t hesitate to reach out to learn more from us. Friction or ‘sludge audits’ will soon become part of everyone's toolkits for more effective marketing.

Here’s to a ‘sludge-free’ world!


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