Pandemic Optimism: Realistic v Hopeful

Optimism encompasses a ‘positive anchoring’ in risk decision making. This can be a coping mechanism to overcome the anxiety of risk in a pandemic. However, this is only true when people adopt a form of ‘realistic optimism’, which should be distinguished from ‘hopeful optimism’. Behavioural interventions can play a role in building realistic optimism in people before they are hit by a pandemic. … More Pandemic Optimism: Realistic v Hopeful

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

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