Complex Problems need Complex Science

Many of today’s most ambitious policy goals involve complex systems. The ‘behavioural revolution’ in public policy means that behavioural science is playing a big role in endeavours to achieve these goals. The interplay of behavioral science and complex systems, however, warrants enhanced consideration. In this blog Katelyn Stenger makes the case for collaboration between behavioural science and complex systems science. … More Complex Problems need Complex Science

Has Behavioural Economics made Economics less insular?

Economics is often described as insular from other social sciences. Alexandre Truc shares the results of research mapping thee content of more than 5000 articles and their references. The research reveals fascinating trends and differences between the various clusters of behavioural economic research. This includes a shift towards greater diversity of disciplines involved in behavioural economics, and thus a relative decline in the role for psychology. Nevertheless, the research shows that the rise of behavioural economics has served more generally as a bridge for the psychology into economics. … More Has Behavioural Economics made Economics less insular?

The Swedish Exception?

Erik Angner and Gustaf Arrhenius explain the context of Sweden’s response to COVID-19, seen as straying well away from the mainstream. They argue that every country faces the same uncertainties in the coronavirus pandemic. Responses are framed by local constitutional and cultural norms, and by other factors including behavioural insights. In this Sweden is no different, but its strategy is set by its experts not by politicians. … More The Swedish Exception?

Learning v. Earning

Uni students whose education choices are driven by intrinsic motivation perform better than those driven by financial return. @L_Bunce shows how marketised education may bring new challenges for policymakers and educators. … More Learning v. Earning

Epicurean Nudging: Pleasure as a path to healthier eating

Pierre Chandon, L’Oreal Chaired Professor of Marketing, Innovation and Creativity, INSEAD and Director of the INSEAD-Sorbonne University Behavioural Lab   I was about to give a talk at the Harvard School of Public Health when a distinguished nutritionist came to me and told me that he believed that the CEOs of Coca-Cola, Pepsico, General Mills, … More Epicurean Nudging: Pleasure as a path to healthier eating

Solution Aversion

In a February 2018 LSE lecture on climate change Cass Sunstein highlighted a problem of “solution aversion”; the phenomenon that people deny problems when averse to solutions. Titled, ‘Solution aversion: On the relation between ideology and motivated disbelief,’ and written by then PhD student Troy Campbell and Professor Aaron Kay the paper became Duke University’s most viewed research press release when it was released in 2014. In this blog, Troy Campbell, now a professor at the University of Oregon, explains the problematic phenomena, the nuances, extensions, and the many potential solutions to solution aversion.   … More Solution Aversion

Baffling bathrooms: On navigability and choice architecture

Maya-Bar-Hillel and Cass Sunstein explore problems of navigability: Humans do not know how to get to their preferred destination.  Much work in behavioral economics (including that by 2017 Nobel Prize winner Richard Thaler) can be seen as an exploration of the challenges that people face in navigating complex situations, and the imperfect strategies they develop to meet those challenges. The Grand Hotel in Stockholm, which plays annual host to the Nobel laureates and many of their guests, lives up to its name, but in illuminating ways, creates problems of navigability for those who stay there.  This essay, written by two of Richard Thaler’s guests, explores some of those problems, with general observations about choice architecture, bathroom design, heterogeneity, and navigability. … More Baffling bathrooms: On navigability and choice architecture

Much Ado About Nudging

By Richard H. Thaler – University of Chicago
When the editors of this journal asked me to write a commentary on a new paper by George Loewenstein and Nick Chater I did not expect that I would have anything useful to say. After all, I have known George for longer than we would care to admit, and we mostly share similar worldviews. Nonetheless, after reading their paper, and after trying and failing to sort things out in person, I found myself left with enough differences of opinion that it seemed worth writing something up. With one exception … More Much Ado About Nudging

Reimagining Policing

Algorithms provide a good starting point for police reform, but not a panacea. When screening candidates for the police force of the future, for example, auditing for bias is not only helpful, it’s essential. Algorithms offer new possibilities to do this. Going beyond hiring decisions, data and behavioral science can be used to encourage people to be their best self. Even small details amongst environmental influences on behavior can make a difference. Properly regulated and scrutinised algorithms can help improve recruitment, retention and promotion. They can also help strengthen law enforcement itself and community engagement in policing, to everyone’s benefit. … More Reimagining Policing

Nudge acceptance in Developing Countries: Ethical (or Unnecessary) Litmus Test?

It is tempting to justify contrasting standards with regard to public acceptance of nudges between developed and developing country contexts. This is a slippery slope that has, in the past, led to harmful interventions. As behavioural tools become more widely used there is a need to re-examine these issues. Public acceptance may seem like a difficult litmus test in some countries, but failure may simply indicate that policymakers are trying to change too much, too fast. Creating demand for behaviour change is an important first step. … More Nudge acceptance in Developing Countries: Ethical (or Unnecessary) Litmus Test?

Motivation Laundering

Policy makers frequently reward people for behaviour that is good for them or for society. In the absence of these incentives these good behaviours might make people feel proud, signalling to themselves and others that they genuinely care about bettering themselves and the world. But what happens to these feelings if they’ve earned a financial reward for the behaviour, rather than completing it of their own initiative? This blog reports on two experiments revealing that people may be willing to forego promised rewards to retrospectively interpret their good behaviour as intrinsic: Motivation Laundering … More Motivation Laundering

The Paradox of Trust: Insights from Singapore’s COVID-19 experience

Can a high-level of trust in government generate over-confidence and non-compliance? Research in Singapore during the COVID-19 pandemic  by Catherine Wong and Olivia Jensen reveals an apparent paradox of trust. In a situation of high trust a citizen may become like a child crossing a busy road holding a parent’s hand, less aware of the danger around. Using data from social media posts and focus group analysis the authors find that, in this pandemic, trust in government seemed to have an negative effect on compliance with social distancing requirements, as did trust in family and friends. This raises important policy questions of how to build or sustain trust during a health crisis whilst maintaining appropriate levels of risk perception.    … More The Paradox of Trust: Insights from Singapore’s COVID-19 experience

Flatten the (Logarithmic) Curve

Mass media routinely portray information about COVID-19 deaths on logarithmic graphs. But do their readers understand them? Experimentation suggests that they don’t. What is perhaps more relevant: Respondents looking at a linear scale graph have different attitudes and policy preferences towards the pandemic than those shown the same data on a logarithmic graph. Merely changing the scale the data is presented on can alter public policy preferences and the level of worry, even at a time when people are routinely exposed to a lot of COVID-19 related information. … More Flatten the (Logarithmic) Curve

Plus ca change?

Governments are facing two difficult policy challenges: managing the transition from a COVID19 lockdown, and establishing a “new normal”. Individuals and policymakers may now recognise the importance of wellbeing as an outcome from their actions. Behavioural insights have much to offer in tackling these challenges, and incorporating wellbeing into public policies. … More Plus ca change?