FORTHCOMING SPECIAL ISSUE BLOG SERIES ON ‘Beyond Nudge: advancing the state-of-the-art of Behavioural Public Policy & Administration’
Nudge is frequently in the news at the moment. Thaler and Sunstein coined the term to describe the way in which governments could use small policy interventions (like an advert, a sign, or a letter) to ‘nudge’ people into changing their behaviour for the better, both for themselves and for society at large. Experts in nudge (so called behavioural scientists) have been busy during the current pandemic advising the government on the best way of getting people to follow coronavirus health advice whether it be washing your hands while singing happy birthday or staying at home to save the NHS.
We already know however that many people do not do what they are told. In my recent article in Policy & Politics, I describe how scholars working in public health draw on the notion of fatalism to explain the intractability of citizens who ignore their doctors’ advice. A fatalist mindset inclines some people to believe that their fortunes are, in the strongest sense of the word, predetermined or at least heavily constrained by forces beyond their control. People who believe their lives are characterised by luck, powerlessness and impenetrable complexity tend to respond poorly to authoritative advice. Three types of fatalism are of particular relevance to nudge. Continue reading FORTHCOMING SPECIAL ISSUE BLOG SERIES: Blog 1 – Why Nudge Sometimes Fails: Fatalism and the Problem of Behaviour Change→
They go by a variety of names; nudge units, behavioural insights (BI) teams and behavioural economics teams. However, they all owe a debt to the pioneering work of the Behavioural Insights Team (BIT) in the United Kingdom (UK). Based on behavioural research on the ‘irrational’ behaviours of citizens and/or policy target audiences, ‘nudge’ instruments have been tested through rigorous research in the form of randomised controlled trials. Using this approach, the BIT UK has had a significant impact on the policy innovation landscape across the globe. Teams have emerged in Europe, the US, Canada, Japan, Singapore, Saudi Arabia, Peru, Australia, New Zealand and many more countries.
Our research recently published in Policy & Politics explores the BI phenomena as it emerged in Australia, from which we derive analysis relevant to global actors and governments engaged BI. In two independent exploratory studies, we sought to understand how such teams actually operate in practice. One study was an in-depth observational study of staff in the Behavioural Economics Team of the Australian Government (BETA). The other was an interview-based study of three teams, namely, those operating in two state governments, New South Wales and Victoria, together with the Australian government’s BETA. Continue reading Behavioural insights teams in practice: nudge missions and methods on trial→
Sarah Ayres, Steve Martin and Felicity Matthews, Co-editors of Policy & Politics
New virtual issue from Policy & Politics: Working with citizens and changing behaviours
In this month’s virtual issue we showcase our latest research on the topic of the state working with citizens and changing behaviours. As governments grapple with the longer-term implications of the COVID-19 pandemic, invoking behavioural change will be a key measure in the easing of lockdowns and the maintenance of social distancing, Against this backdrop, the articles below provide a series of instructive lessons. Continue reading Virtual issue on Working with citizens and changing behaviours→
In 2013 there was controversy when it emerged in the UK that unemployed jobseekers had unwittingly been used as guinea pigs for a government experiment. They had been told to complete an online psychometric questionnaire called ‘MyStrengths’, with the threat of benefit withdrawal if they did not comply. Having entered their answers, participants were presented with apparently personalised electronic messages of ‘positive reinforcement’ eg that their answers had demonstrated a ‘love of learning’. But it later transpired that no matter what answers were entered, everybody received exactly the same messages. The real objective had been to indiscriminately instil positive psychology among the Continue reading The politics of behaviour change: Nudge, neoliberalism and the state→
Nudge has created considerable debate in both academic and policy circles. We are delighted to be able to make one of our articles on the subject free this month. In 2013 Peter John wrote on the subject in our Special Issue that year. Readers of that article might also like to see Will Legget’s piece from 2014.
Rhys Jones and Mark Whitehead, Aberystwyth University, and Jessica Pykett, Birmingham University discuss their article, Psychological governance and behaviour change which was published in Policy & Politics in 2013, and is available free during May 2014.
‘Behaviour Change’ has become a familiar term in UK public policy. This trend indicates the growing influence of the behavioural sciences (including behavioural economics, social psychology and, to a certain extent, neuroscience disciplines) on UK policy making communities in a range of sectors –from personal finance, through public health, to environmental communications. Our work to date has involved a policy ethnography of the emergence and rise of Behaviour Change as an agenda for governance which embeds behavioural insights into public policy design and delivery. We are now investigating the significance of the UK as a policy laboratory for these behavioural forms of governance, as the Behaviour Change agenda spreads internationally. We have identified hundreds of countries in which Behaviour Change initiatives are commonplace as well as several nations in which Behaviour Change has become a centrally-orchestrated programme for governance. Continue reading Behaviour change as psychological governance – making psy-citizens?→