“Behavioural insights”, or insights derived from the behavioural and social sciences, including decision making, psychology, cognitive science, neuroscience, organisational and group behaviour, are being applied by governments with the aim of making public policies work better. As their use has become more widespread, however, questions are being raised about their effectiveness as well as their philosophical underpinnings. 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, including consumer protection, education, energy, environment, finance, health and safety, labour market policies, public service delivery, taxes and telecommunications. It suggests ways to ensure that this experimental approach can be successfully and sustainably used as a public policy tool.
- 01 Mar 2017
Public policy needs to understand human behaviour better and promote behavioural change through a more scientific approach. Both practitioners and researchers have actively embraced ‘behavioural insights’, leading to the creation of high-level policy initiatives and shifts in research attention across disciplines. Equally, there has been growth of a more critical literature, questioning the philosophical underpinnings of the move towards behavioural economics, commenting on the wider range of interventions that have been labelled “behavioural”, or questioning the wider applicability of behavioural insights for policy making.