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
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
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
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?
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?
In 2020 a pandemic made a policy priority of hygiene. In her prize-winning MSc essay Cristina Parilli reported on an exercise in testing reciprocity-based messaging to promote cleanliness in a fitness centre. Might this be a route to sustaining hygiene habits post-COVID? … More A reciprocal exercise in hygiene habit formation
Kunreuther & Slovic highlight the challenges in understanding the deceptive nature of exponential growth: What initially looks benign takes off in a torrent of harm. COVID-19 gives a vital lesson on exponential growth. This understanding needs to be applied to serious problems caused by climate change. … More A Lesson for Climate Change from the Coronavirus Pandemic: Act Now!
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?
An interesting aspect of the current pandemic is that authoritarian solutions, typified by complete lockdowns of citizens’ movements, seem increasingly popular. Even in England, where self-determination is given high importance and police powers are relatively limited, there seems strong support for “lockdown” policies. In unusual situations should governments put more effort into soliciting public opinion in their decisions, rather than relying upon attitudinal assumptions derived from more normal times.
… More Popular Paternalism: Has a Pandemic turned people towards authoritarianism?
Reciprocity is a fundamental driver of human behaviour. There will probably be few times in our lives when the will to act reciprocally will be more important than it is right now. It could be used in the 2020 Coronavirus pandemic … More Durian Is Not The Only Fruit: On Reciprocity and Hoarding in the Age of the Coronavirus