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.
Behavioral Design Teams: A Model for Integrating Behavioral Design in City Government - open source playbook
In the middle of a winter’s night in 2017, Frank Luntz’s cellphone alerted him to a nearby wildfire. The longtime analyst of public opinion opened his bedroom curtains and saw, less than a mile away, flames chewing the dark sky over Los Angeles. Luntz — who specializes in how the public reacts to words — saw scary evidence of a threat that he once tried to neutralize with language. In 2001, he’d written a memo of environmental talking points for Republican politicians and instructed them to scrub their vocabulary of “global warming,” because it had “catastrophic connotations,” and rely on another term: “climate change,” which suggested “a more controllable and less emotional challenge.” Last month, with a revised script, Luntz appeared before the Senate Democrats’ Special Committee on the Climate Crisis. “I’m here before you to say that I was wrong in 2001,” Luntz said. Nearby was a colorful chart of vocabulary, developed since his polling in 2009 showed bipartisan support for climate legislation. He went on: “I’ve changed. And I will help you with messaging, if you wish to have it.”
1. Nudges do not respect freedom. 2. Nudges are based on excessive trust in government. 3. Nudges cannot achieve a whole lot.
This commentary argues that social marketing and the application of behavioural sciences to policy constitute two converging paths towards better policies. It highlights points of convergence and divergence between both disciplines and the potential benefits of further embedding social marketing principles and methods within the recent trend of applying behavioural sciences to policy.
A free online course on behavioural insights for public policy from the Behavioral Economics Team of the Australian government
Addressing massive challenges like climate change and poverty requires that we take a long-term view and have a preventative mindset. Since these perspectives challenge the deeply ingrained ways we have evolved to think and behave, we need to pay attention to why prevention is hard to think about and navigate the cognitive road blocks that stand in the way of progress. By presenting issues and information in ways that unlock support for preventative approaches, we can galvanize the ideas and actions social and environmental change requires.
This chapter illustrates how the Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM) and the Beti Bachao Beti Padhao (BBBP) have successfully employed behavioural insights. Using such learning, the chapter lays out an ambitious agenda for social change: (i) from BBBP to BADLAV (Beti Aapki Dhan Lakshmi Aur Vijay Lakshmi); (ii) from Swachh Bharat to Sundar Bharat; (iii) from “Give it up” for the LPG subsidy to “Think about the Subsidy”; and (iv) from tax evasion to tax compliance. First, a key principle of behavioural economics is that while people’s behaviour is influenced significantly by social norms, understanding the drivers of these social norms can enable change. In India, where social and religious norms play such a dominant role in influencing behaviour, behavioural economics can therefore provide a valuable instrument for change. So, beneficial social norms can be furthered by drawing attention to positive influencers, especially friends/ neighbours that represent role models with which people can identify. Second, as people are given to tremendous inertia when making a choice, they prefer sticking to the default option. By the nearly costless act of changing the default to overcome this inertia, desired behaviour can be encouraged without affecting people’s choices. Third, as people find it difficult to sustain good habits, repeated reinforcements and reminders of successful past actions can help sustain changed behaviour
Nudges span an exceedingly wide range, and their number and variety are constantly growing. Here is a catalogue of ten important nudges — very possibly, the most important for purposes of policy — along with a few explanatory comments.
However, nudges aimed at reducing carbon emissions could have a pernicious indirect effect if they offer the promise of a ‘quick fix’ and thereby undermine support for policies of greater impact.
Given the central role of anger in shaping adversarial policy preferences in the context of intergroup conflict, its reduction may promote conflict resolution. In the current work, we drew on psycholinguistic research on the role of language in generating emotions to explore a novel, extremely subtle means of intervention. Specifically, we hypothesized that phrasing conflict-relevant policies in noun form (vs. verb form) would reduce anger and impact policy support correspondingly. Results across three experimental studies in the context of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict supported these expectations for both support for concessions (Studies 1–3) and retaliatory policies (Study 3), with reduction in anger mediating the salutary impact of noun form (vs. verb form) on policy support. These results expand our understanding of the influence of language on emotions and policies in the context of conflict and have applied relevance for conflict-resolution efforts. (1) (PDF) A Rose by Any Other Name? A Subtle Linguistic Cue Impacts Anger and Corresponding Policy Support in Intractable Conflict. Available from: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/322150387_A_Rose_by_Any_Other_Name_A_Subtle_Linguistic_Cue_Impacts_Anger_and_Corresponding_Policy_Support_in_Intractable_Conflict [accessed May 02 2019].
To gain a better understanding of how to build a successful nudge unit, we recently talked to 14 experts who have led initiatives in sectors from financial services and healthcare to advertising and retail (see sidebar, “Fourteen experts forging the future”). Most stressed that while nudging is a catchy term, it does not do full justice to the broad applications of behavioral science to the businesses for which they and their units are responsible. Behavioral science, for instance, encompasses debiasing and other tools for driving behavioral change, including incentives, education, and awareness.
This report is a summary of the work of the Behavioural Insights Team and its partners from September 2017 to November 2018. It includes highlights from our six offices around the world – in London, Manchester, New York, Singapore, Sydney and Wellington. We also cover our growing portfolio of BI Ventures, products that draw on behavioural insights to make positive social impact.
This report aims to capture both the spread and form of behavioral science in 10 countries, selected based on being innovators or early adopters in the field: Australia, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Netherlands, Peru, Singapore, the U.S., and the UK. We hope that the experiences of these ten countries – including information on As of November 2018, there are at least 202 public entities all over the world applying behavioral insights to their policies (OECD, 2018) COUNTRY PROFILES - INTRODUCTION — 07 — how public bodies within these countries are integrating behavioral insights, how they are working to apply behavioral insights, and how these behavioral functions have been structured and staffed – can serve as useful information for all those working to leverage behavioral science to improve society. Given the expansion of behavioral science within governments; the shifting behavioral insights landscape; and the limit to, and wide distribution of, public information; this report presents a representative snapshot of the state of behavioral science within the governments of the profiled countries.
Week 1 When Everything Looks Like a Nail: Building Better “Behavioral Economics” Teams By Jason Collins Nudges Alone Won’t Save Nemo: Conservation in the Great Barrier Reef By John Pickering From Ph.D. to Policy: Facilitating Connections Between Junior Scholars and Policymakers By Ashley Whillans and Heather Devine Shouldn’t We Make It Easy to Use Behavioral Science for Good? By Manasee Desai RCTs Are Not (Always) the Answer By Tania Ramos and João Matos Week 2 Why Governments Need to Nudge Themselves By Michael Hallsworth and Mark Egan Behavioral Development Economics By Syon Bhanot and Aishwarya Deshpande Why Governments Should Treat Cybersecurity the Way They Do Infectious Diseases By Karen Renaud and Stephen Flowerday Pour One Out for Nudge’s Forgotten Peers By Jesse Dashefsky Helping Parents Follow Through By Nadav Klein, Keri Lintz, Ariel Kalil, and Susan E. Mayer Week 3 A New Model for Integrating Behavioral Science and Design By Sarah Reid and Ruth Schmidt Applying Behavioral Science Upstream in the Policy Design Process By Kate Phillips Lessons in “Nudging” From the Developing World By Abigail Goodnow Dalton Choice Architecture 2.0: How People Interpret and Make Sense of Nudges By Job Krijnen What the Origins of the “1 in 5” Statistic Teaches Us About Sexual Assault Policy By Alexandra Rutherford BONUS Nudge Turns 10: A Q&A With Cass Sunstein By Elizabeth Weingarten Nudge Turns 10: A Q&A With Ricard Thaler By Evan Nesterak
This report discusses the use and reach of behavioural insights, drawing on a comprehensive collection of over 100 applications across the world and policy sectors.
But to be effective, nudges should be calibrated; “one size fits all” approaches tend to fall short of expectations. Instead, policymakers can tailor their nudges to align with these three dimensions: Spectrums of acceptability (and deviance). How strictly must targets adhere to the rule? While driving a couple of miles over the speed limit is unlikely to result in a traffic violation, attempting to bring a weapon onto an airplane requires zero-tolerance enforcement. Frequency of action. How often must the target group provide input? It may be easier to have targets make a single decision to contribute or obey, as opposed to encouraging them to repeatedly make the same decision over time. For example, people usually only need to choose to be an organ donor once, but drivers put their seat belt on every time they get into a car. Target group diversity. How heterogeneous is your target group? People may come from different socioeconomic backgrounds, have different interests, or may speak another language, all of which makes it challenging to apply a blanket rule with universal success. Moreover, targets can be geographically scattered or online, making it difficult for policymakers to surveil the target group. For example, all vehicle owners must register their cars, but not everyone should seek the same preventative medical treatments. And even those that do require similar treatments may have different motivations for doing so.
Our work published this week analyses all 111 cases studies of behavioral techniques used by governments compiled by the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development). Our analysis demonstrates that none of the techniques used have scientific proven effectiveness.
The table below provides guidance for thinking through when specific policy tools are useful and when choice architecture or nudging can be used to complement or enhance a particular strategy.
How-to for govts to set up a nudge unit