Behavioural Public Policy

Behavioural Public Policy

Since the publication of Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein’s book Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness, the government has been keen to use evidence from behavioural economics to influence public policy in areas such as health, the environment and education; in 2011 David Cameron even introduced a so-called ‘Nudge Unit’ into Number 10. Here it is questioned whether behavioural insight is a passing trend, whether the state has any business trying to influence individual behaviour, and how ‘nudging’ could produce tangible benefits in health, the environment, education and other areas.

We can use nudges to construct our ‘choice environment’ to improve wellbeing

In this latest Behavioural Public Policy article, the LSE’s Paul Dolan, a former member of the Government’s Behavioural Insights Team, summarises why he thinks nudges work. Did you skip the gym again last night? Did you buy and then devour that giant size chocolate bar on special offer for a pound? Such choices might make you happier, but they might […]

Nudge, behavioural economics and public policy: a new theme for British Politics and Policy at LSE

Behavioural economics has come far in the past decade, and is being used increasingly to help inform public policy. A new theme for British Politics and Policy at LSE blog will, according to Adam Oliver, serve as a forum for ideas and debate in this most topical area. Behavioural economics has been around for a while. Its origins could be disputed. […]

Book Review: Blind Spots: Why We Fail to Do What’s Right and What to Do About It

Charles Crawford looks into the theories behind why our behaviour is not always as ethical as we think it might be, and the growing policy trend of ‘nudging’ personal choices. Blind Spots: Why We Fail to Do What’s Right and What to Do About It. Max H. Bazerman and Ann E. Tenbrunsel. Princeton University Press. April 2011. Find this book at: […]

Think before you nudge: the benefits and pitfalls of behavioural public policy

The government’s commitment to behavioural change is starting to be taken up by both central government departments and local authorities. Paul Rainford and Jane Tinkler look at the benefits and problems associated with so called ‘nudge’ theories and how this approach is being used in the UK. In 2008 Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein published a book entitled Nudge: Improving […]

As UK society ages, ‘nudging’ older people to self-regulate the way they drive may improve road safety and improve their wellbeing.

As society ages, it is inevitable that there will be an increasing numbers of older drivers on our roads. Yet there is no evidence that older drivers are less safe than other age groups or that restrictive regulatory systems produce safer roads. Dr Craig Berry of the International Longevity Centre-UK considers whether this is a policy area amenable to the […]

A small charge for a big result: The case of M&S shows that choice can encourage positive environmental behaviour

Encouraging  individuals to change their behaviour towards the environment  is an increasingly important area of policy-making. Julian Le Grand and Kate Disney find that the introduction of a charge for plastic bags in Marks and Spencer shops successfully encouraged pro-environmental behaviour and explore the implications for environmental policy.

LSE’s mappiness project may help us track the national mood: but how much should we consider happiness in deciding public policy?

It is impossible to open the papers today without reading about how the Government’s cuts will cause ‘misery’ or ‘unhapiness’ for particular organizations, socio-economic classes, regions, or communities. Yet how can we actually measure individual well-being across time and space? George MacKerron and Susana Mourato of LSE’s Department of Geography and Environment and the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change […]

How far did the UK government over-respond to the 2009 threat of Swine Flu?

Managing major risks creates problems for governments when probabilities are hard to estimate and outcomes are uncertain. Reviewing the experience of the 2009 swine flu pandemic fear, Adam Oliver argues that the UK government over-reacted in some key respects. Partly underlying this response was an ‘aversion to ambiguity’ pattern of behaviour that has long been studied by social scientists. […]