New Perspectives in Policy and Politics

You are looking at 1 - 10 of 97 items

Behavioural public policy is predominantly based on insights from behavioural economics and psychology in order to ‘nudge’ people to act in line with specific aims and to overcome the dilemma of behaviour that contradicts economic rationality. In contrast, we define behavioural public policy as a multi-disciplinary and multi-methodological concept that utilises insights from the whole range of behavioural research. Based on a scoping review and peer survey we see merit in behavioural insights from disciplines such as anthropology, geography and sociology as well as the application of qualitative methods. Our findings identify the need to advance behavioural public policy conceptually and methodologically. This chapter challenges our current understanding of behavioural policymaking by integrating ‘foreign’ views and approaches that do not (yet) belong to the core discipline. We argue that behavioural public policy should not be a synonym for a limited number of policy approaches (for example, nudges) based on specific research methods (for example, randomised control trials) to reach individual behaviour change. Instead, our findings suggest a redefinition of the scientific footing of behavioural public policy.

Restricted access
Authors: and

Behavioural and experimental projects have become increasingly popular with policymakers. Behavioural insights teams have used several policy design and implementation tools drawn from behavioural sciences, especially randomised controlled trials, to test the design of ‘nudge’ interventions. This approach has attained discursive legitimacy in government agencies seeking to use the best available evidence for behaviourally informed, evidence-based policy innovation. We examine the practices of governmental behavioural insights teams in Australia, drawing on two research projects that included interviews with key personnel. We find that teams make strong commitments to using and promoting randomised controlled trials in government policy innovation. Nevertheless, some members of these teams are beginning to appreciate the constraints of relying solely on randomised controlled trials in the development of behavioural public policy. We conclude that while an initial focus on rigorous trials helped behavioural insights teams establish themselves in policymaking, strict adherence may represent a risk to their long-term growth and relevance.

Restricted access
Authors: and

This chapter theorises how behavioural public administration can help improve our understanding of frontline policy implementation. The human factors that characterise policy implementation remain undertheorised: individual variation in policy implementation is dismissed as mere “noise” that hinders predictability in policy implementation. This chapter aims to fill this gap. We provide a model for street level decision-making which outlines the role of heuristics and biases in frontline workers’ allocation of resources and sanctions. Based on an analysis of the behavioural and street-level bureaucracy literature, we present 11 testable propositions that point to predictable patterns in the ways that bounded rationality influences policy implementation and outcomes. Heuristics can help hard-pressed frontline public service workers to make decisions but may also produce social inequity or inefficient or ineffective service. Therefore, we need to improve understanding of biases that are common among frontline workers in order to inform the development of appropriate mitigation strategies, such as de-biasing or even ‘re-biasing’ (nudging).

Restricted access
Advancing the State-of-the-Art of Behavioural Public Policy and Administration

In recent years, a wave of reforms known as ‘nudges’ or ‘behavioural interventions’ have emerged in public policy and administration. ‘Nudge’ policies are created to lightly influence groups in society to change their behaviour, using behavioural insights to solve complex policy problems. Generally, behavioural approaches focus on the psychology underlying the implementation and effects of policies in practice.

First published as a special issue of Policy & Politics journal, this book situates these reforms within a broader tradition of methodological individualism.

With contributions from international scholars, it demonstrates that when behavioural policies expand their focus beyond the individual, they have the potential to better understand, investigate and shape social outcomes.

Restricted access

In this introduction, we develop a behaviourally informed, integrated conceptual model of the policy process that embeds individual attitudes and behaviour into context at the meso and macro level. We argue that behavioural

approaches can be situated within a broader tradition of methodological individualism. Despite focusing on the micro level of policy processes, the contributions in this issue demonstrate that the behavioural study of public policy and administration can go beyond the individual level and

give important insights into policy and societal outcomes. Our model enables us to draw more substantial lessons from behavioural research by moving beyond the verification of individual behaviour change. If based on a broad conceptual design and methodological pluralism, behavioural policies bear the potential to better understand, investigate and shape social outcomes.

Restricted access

This chapter investigates whether street-level bureaucrats can be incentivised to process information in ways that lead to more effective implementation decisions. It draws on the literatures on behavioural public policy (BPP) and street-level bureaucracy to analyse how civil servants implement disability insurance policy in Switzerland. We conducted a field experiment to assess whether a thought-provoking nudge improves the decisional effectiveness of street-level bureaucrats (SLBs). SLBs were assigned to either a ‘business-as-usual’ control condition, or to an experimental condition, where they were called to pay attention to vulnerability processes along the beneficiaries’ life course when making decisions. While we did not find that the thought-provoking nudge directly improved effectiveness, we found that it increased beneficiaries’ humanisation. In particular, there was some evidence for indirect positive effects of the thought-provoking nudge on effectiveness via humanisation. These findings encourage BPP researchers to consider additional dimensions such as humanisation to nudge SLBs into processing information in better ways.

Restricted access

Insights emanating from our model support and accelerate the unfinished process of applying behavioural sciences in public policy and administration. This final chapter investigates the opportunities for applying our behavioural model of the policy process in three steps. First, we discuss how the model has been perceived by scholars of public policy and administration so far, in relation to which research topics and contexts. Second, we demonstrate how the model could be used as a theoretical framework to study governance activities in the field of climate change. Finally, we summarize key findings and suggest future avenues in BPP/BPA research.

Restricted access

Behavioural public policy interventions have been implemented across the world, targeting citizens, professionals, politicians and policymakers. This chapter examines poor quality reporting of interventions and methods in some behavioural public policy research. We undertake a review of existing reporting standards to assess their suitability for the behavioural public policy context. Our findings reveal that the adoption of standards can improve the reliability and reproducibility of research; provide a more robust evidence base from which to generalise findings; and convince sceptics of the value of behavioural public policy research. We conclude that use of the Template for Intervention Description and Replication (TIDieR) checklist and the Behaviour Change Technique Taxonomy (BCTTv1) would add rigour to intervention reporting. We argue there is a need for a combined tool to guide the design and reporting of randomised controlled trials, incorporating elements from the Consolidated Standards of Reporting Trials (CONSORT) checklist and other sources.

Restricted access
Authors: and

The aim of this chapter is to explore the motivations of street-level bureaucrats when implementing change initiated by elected politicians. We analyse experimental data on more than 1,800 local civil servants from all 243 local governments in South Korea and find that street-level bureaucrats are more likely to implement change instigated by local elected politicians when their own policy positions are reflected in the reforms. Moreover, the degree to which street-level bureaucrats are likely to execute reforms instigated by local politicians is greater when bureaucrats perceive themselves as having more freedom to exercise discretion. These findings reveal a behavioural insight into the conditions in which bureaucrats are more likely to respond to change championed by elected politicians versus conditions where they are more likely to follow existing rules in the policy implementation process.

Restricted access

Behavioural public policy has spread internationally over recent years. Worldwide, expert units are translating insights from behavioural sciences into policy interventions. Yet, behavioural expert networks are a puzzling case. They seem to oscillate between two modes of collective action: as an epistemic community, they are based on the consensual belief that biases in behaviour pose a problem for policymaking. As an instrument constituency, they bring together a diversity of actors, unified not by consensual beliefs about problems but by practices of promoting behavioural instruments as solutions. Drawing on a review of literature, this chapter provides a systematic analysis of the relation between epistemic communities and instrument constituencies. It argues that there has been an ‘agency shift’ from one mode to the other. The implications are that experts should be aware of the fact that the instruments they are proposing might develop a political life of their own.

Restricted access