Friday, October 9, 2015

Using behavioral insights for policy

Social and Behavioral Sciences Team 2015 Annual Report

Some weeks ago, an executive order by President Obama boosted the application of behavioral insights to policy.
To more fully realize the benefits of behavioral insights and deliver better results at a lower cost for the American people, the Federal Government should design its policies and programs to reflect our best understanding of how people engage with, participate in, use, and respond to those policies and programs. By improving the effectiveness and efficiency of Government, behavioral science insights can support a range of national priorities, including helping workers to find better jobs; enabling Americans to lead longer, healthier lives; improving access to educational opportunities and support for success in school; and accelerating the transition to a low-carbon economy.
Sounds interesting. It poses a tweak on the current approaches to policy design. Cass Sunstein says in NYT:
 When government programs fail, it is often because public officials are clueless about how human beings think and act. Federal, state and local governments make it far too hard for small businesses, developers, farmers, veterans and poor people to get permits, licenses, training and economic assistance.
 Behavioral research shows that efforts at simplification, or slight variations in wording, can make all the difference.
The UK and now the USA are introducing this new way to define policies (and health policy). Let's keep an eye on its application and performance. What are we doing in this respect? Why are we waiting to introduce something similar?

President Barack Obama speaks with members of the Social and Behavioral Sciences Team in the Oval Office in January 2015.
 President Barack Obama speaks with members of the Social and Behavioral Sciences Team in the Oval Office in January 2015.

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