for urban planning - improving the quality of public space, countering crime and anti-social behaviour, or improving traffic safety
nudges appear to have the greatest impact on choice when people have less developed preferences because they are ambivalent or in doubt about their choice.
A new meta-analysis published in PNAS by Stephanie Mertens, Mario Herberz, Ulf J. J. Hahnel, and Tobias Brosch provides more evidence about the effectiveness of nudges. Here’s a summary:
The presentarticle reviews the debate and research on nudges byfocusing on three main dimensions: (1) the exact defi-nition of nudges; (2) the justification of nudge policies,with a focus on “libertarian paternalism”; and (3) theeffectiveness of nudges, both over time and in compari-son with standard policies.
In 2010, Colombia's defense minister contacted an ad agency to create an idea to demobilize FARC members, the oldest guerrilla army in Latin America. The agency, after spending over a year talking to nearly 100 of its members, learned two main things (1). -First, guerrilla members are ordinary men and women and not only guerrillas, a fact which is often forgotten after 60 years at war. -Secondly, they are more likely to demobilize during Christmas as it is a sensitive and emotional period. Based on these insights, they had a clever idea to put a Christmas tree in strategic walking paths in the middle of the jungle that would light up when someone passed by with a message promoting demobilization. The results? Three hundred thirty-one people who demobilized named this idea as one of the reasons to do so. Over the years, several campaigns from the same agency were quite successful, and overall, they were named in over 800 demobilizations. Causality, of course, cannot be established. Nevertheless, any measurable, non-violent efforts like this one are praised. Next time you think you have a difficult-to-reach customer, maybe think again!
In this study, a 10% increase in SSB prices was associated with a 3% relative decrease in prevalence of overweight or obesity among adolescent girls. Improved weight-related outcomes were small and largely observed in girls with heavier weight and in cities where price increases were greater than 10% after the tax.
Controlling for expected value, we found that a policy combining a high probability of inspection with a low severity of fines (HILS) was more effective than an economically equivalent policy that combined a low probability of inspection with a high severity of fines (LIHS). The advantage of prioritizing inspection frequency over punishment severity (HILS over LIHS) was greater for participants who, in the absence of enforcement, started out with a higher violation rate. Consistent with studies of decisions from experience, frequent enforcement with small fines was more effective than rare severe fines even when we announced the severity of the fine in advance to boost deterrence.
Narrative capture is when an industry, company, or group changes the common narrative for their benefit, even if that just means changing the status quo. What are our baseline expectations? What is acceptable behavior? What is the way we measure fairness? What should we complain about? As expected, narrative capture is different. Here are some of its forms.
“...Public health’s attempts at being apolitical push it further toward irrelevance. In truth, public health is inescapably political, not least because it has to make decisions in the face of rapidly evolving and contested evidence.“
Much of the discussion of behaviourally informed approaches has focused on ‘nudges’; that is, non-fiscal and non-regulatory interventions that steer (nudge) people in a specific direction while preserving choice. Less attention has been paid to boosts, an alternative evidence-based class of non-fiscal and non-regulatory intervention. The goal of boosts is to make it easier for people to exercise their own agency in making choices. For instance, when people are at risk of making poor health, medical or financial choices, the policy-maker – rather than steering behaviour through nudging – can take action to foster or boost individuals’ own decision-making competences.
This chapter goes beyond classic nudges in introducing public policy practitioners and researchers worldwide to a wide range of behavioural change interventions like boosts, thinks, and nudge pluses. These policy tools, much like their classic nudge counterpart, are libertarian, internality targeting and behaviourally informed policies that lie at the origin of the behavioural policy cube as originally conceived by Oliver. This chapter undertakes a review of these instruments, in systematically and holistically comparing them. Nudge pluses are truly hybrid nudge-think strategies, in that they combine the best features of the reflexive nudges and the more deliberative boosts (or, think) strategies. Going forward, the chapter prescribes the consideration of a wider policy toolkit in directing interventions to tackle societal problems and hopes to break the false synonymity of behavioural based policies with nudge-type interventions only
Effective communication between academics and policy makers plays an important role in informing political decision making and creating impact for researchers. Policy briefs are short evidence summaries written by researchers to inform the development or implementation of policy. This guide has been developed to support researchers to write effective policy briefs. It is jointly produced by the NIHR Policy Research Unit in Behavioural Science (BehSciPRU) and the UCL Centre for Behaviour Change (CBC). It has been written in consultation with policy advisers and synthesises current evidence and expert opinion on what makes an effective policy brief. It is for any researcher who wishes to increase the impact of their work by activity that may influence the process of policy formation, implementation or evaluation. Whilst the guide has been written primarily for a UK audience, it is hoped that it will be useful to researchers in other countries.
Ultimately, the greatest threat to controlling the pandemic is the failure of people to get tested as soon as they have symptoms, and to provide their contacts and self-isolate. Providing adequate support for isolation is critical to all of these. And so, by deprioritising the case for support, blaming the public fuels the pandemic. The government’s psychological assumptions have, in fact, squandered the greatest asset we have for dealing with a crisis: a community that is mobilised and unified in mutual aid. When an inquiry is eventually held about the UK’s response to COVID-19, it is essential that we give full attention to the psychological and behavioural dimensions of failure as much as the decisions and policies implemented. Only by exposing the way in which the government came to accept and rely upon the wrong model of human behaviour can we begin to build policies that work.
Key Terms in this Chapter Behavioural Policy Cube: The policy cube encapsulates three core features of the ‘libertarian paternalism’ framework; namely if an intervention or policy tool is informed by the standard axiomatic assumptions of rational man theory or by insights from behavioural theories, if it is internality or externality targeting, and if it is regulatory or libertarian in nature (Oliver, 2017b). Nudge: A nudge is any aspect of the choice architecture that alters people's behavior in a predictable way without forbidding any options or significantly changing their economic incentives (Thaler & Sunstein, 2009). Boost: A boost improves the competency of a decision-maker by enriching his or her repertoire of skills and decision tools and/or by restructuring the environment such that existing skills and tools can be more effectively applied (Grüne-Yanoff & Hertwig, 2016). Think: A think is a schooling strategy that involves large-scale deliberations to enable citizens to own the process of behavioural reforms. These often include citizen forums and large-scale behavioural therapies. Nudge Plus: Nudge plus refers to an intervention that has a reflective strategy embedded into the design of the nudge. It can be delivered either as a one-part device in which the classic nudge and the reflective plus are intrinsically combined, or as a two-part device whereby the classic nudge is extrinsically combined with a deliberative instrument that prompts individual reflection on the nudge. (Banerjee & John, 2020).
The evidence shows that this kind of behaviour change needs to happen collectively, not just individually. So we need joined-up governance at local, national and international levels. Food systems also contribute significantly to greenhouse gas emissions. This can be addressed by reducing waste or directing it back into the supply chain. A mix of different measures will be most effective. The evidence shows that taxation is one of the most effective ways to modify behaviour. Accreditation and labelling schemes can also have an impact.
Explore your policy problem from a behavioural perspective
Emotion, empathy and ethnography in policy-making
Systems theory, rebalancing the whole
the small tax on bags was the actual driver for change, but people thought ecological factors, not the tax, had convinced them. The BeSci lessons here are first, that you can use tiny levers to effect significant change and secondly, that we don't always know, or want to admit, why we take certain decisions.
Want to learn more about applying behavioural insights to public policy? Take our free online course—Behavioural insights for public policy. There’s six learning modules, each with a quiz, to measure learning and understanding. It should help you understand the basics of BI, the mission and work of BETA, as well as the ethical application of the field. It takes about two hours – but you can save your progress and do it at your own pace.
This is the website for a PhD-level mini-course in behavioral public economics developed by Hunt Allcott and Dmitry Taubinsky. Through the lens of neoclassical economics, the role of government is to provide public goods, correct externalities, provide information, and address other market failures. In practice, however, some public policies are motivated by the concern that people do not act in their own best interest. For example, many countries ban drugs, tax cigarettes, alcohol, and sugary drinks, or subsidize retirement savings and energy-efficient appliances, all largely on the grounds that consumers would be better off consuming more or less than they do. Standard approaches to policy analysis rely on revealed preference assumptions to measure an agent’s welfare. Under these assumptions, the direct effect of any policy that changes choices is to reduce consumer welfare. However, empirical evidence from behavioral economics in a variety of domains suggests that people sometimes do make systematic mistakes. The field of behavioral public economics extends the theoretical and empirical tools of public economics to incorporate the possibility of consumer mistakes into questions about policy evaluation and design. This is a PhD-level mini-course in behavioral public economics. In this course, we’ll consider questions like the following: How can we do welfare analysis if choice does not necessarily identify utility? How do we empirically measure consumer biases? How do we set socially optimal policies in settings when consumers may not act in their own best interest? Nudges change behavior at low cost. Does that mean they are a good idea? What are the costs and benefits of tax complexity?
Great examples of how behavioral insights have been applied to behavior change in India
Nearly every major challenge the United States faces—from alleviating unemployment to protecting itself from terrorism—requires understanding the causes and consequences of people’s behavior. Even societal challenges that at first glance appear to be issues only of medicine or engineering or computer science have social and behavioral components. Having a fundamental understanding of how people and societies behave, why they respond the way they do, what they find important, what they believe or value, and what and how they think about others is critical for the country’s well-being in today’s shrinking global world. The diverse disciplines of the social, behavioral, and economic (SBE) sciences ―anthropology, archaeology, demography, economics, geography, linguistics, neuroscience, political science, psychology, sociology, and statistics―all produce fundamental knowledge, methods, and tools that provide a greater understanding of people and how they live.