Skip to main content
×
×
Home

Three challenges for behavioural science and policy: the empirical, the normative and the political

  • ROBERT LEPENIES (a1), KATHRYN MACKAY (a2) and MUIREANN QUIGLEY (a3)
Abstract

In a ‘post-truth’ era in which personality and opinion trump evidence and reason, the need for frankness in debates about the use and boundaries of science and policy is high. We welcome the reflective and nuanced approach to behavioural science in policy-making in Sanders, Snijders and Hallsworth's (2018) piece. Despite our support for the approach in this paper, we suggest that there are deeper issues than are currently acknowledged. Our critique tackles three issues: the empirical, the normative and the political. In the first section, we examine what counts as ‘behavioural’ and how this label is used to legitimate a range of policy activities. We then look at randomised controlled trials in the next section, highlighting the extra-scientific dimensions of the empirical ‘What Works’ revolution. Finally, we question some ontological assumptions that drive empirical research and its translation into policy, asking where the collective is to be found in behavioural public policy.

  • View HTML
    • Send article to Kindle

      To send this article to your Kindle, first ensure no-reply@cambridge.org is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about sending to your Kindle. Find out more about sending to your Kindle.

      Note you can select to send to either the @free.kindle.com or @kindle.com variations. ‘@free.kindle.com’ emails are free but can only be sent to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘@kindle.com’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

      Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

      Three challenges for behavioural science and policy: the empirical, the normative and the political
      Available formats
      ×
      Send article to Dropbox

      To send this article to your Dropbox account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Dropbox.

      Three challenges for behavioural science and policy: the empirical, the normative and the political
      Available formats
      ×
      Send article to Google Drive

      To send this article to your Google Drive account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Google Drive.

      Three challenges for behavioural science and policy: the empirical, the normative and the political
      Available formats
      ×
Copyright
Corresponding author
*Correspondence to: Department of Politics, Philosophy and Religion, Lancaster University, Lancaster LA1 4YQ, UK. Email: k.mackay1@lancaster.ac.uk
References
Hide All
Ashcroft, R. E. (2004), ‘Current epistemological problems in evidence based medicine’, Journal of Medical Ethics, 30(2): 131135.
Banerjee, A. V. and Duflo, E. (2011), Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way to Fight Global Poverty, USA: Public Affairs.
Berndt, C. and Boeckler, M. (2016), ‘Behave, global south! Economics, experiments, evidence: editorial’, Geoforum, 70: 2224.
British Science Association (2014), ‘Public Attitudes to Science Survey’, Available at: https://www.britishscienceassociation.org/public-attitudes-to-science-survey.
Cartwright, N. (2010), ‘What are randomised controlled trials good for?Philosophical Studies, 147: 5970.
Cartwright, N. and Hardie, J. (2012), Evidence-Based Policy: A Practical Guide to Doing it Better, Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.
Cohen, I. G., Lynch, H. F. and Robertson, C.T. Eds. (2016), Nudging Health: Health Law and Behavioural Economics, Baltimore, USA: Johns Hopkins University Press.
Deaton, A. (2009), ‘Instruments of Development: Randomization in The Tropics, and The Search for The Elusive Keys to Economic Development’, National Bureau of Economic Research Working Paper No. 14690, 154.
Deaton, A. and Cartwright, N. (2017), ‘Understanding and Misunderstanding Randomized Controlled Trials’ (Revised version), NBER Working Paper, No. 22595, the National Bureau of Economic Research.
Favereau, J. (2016), ‘On the analogy between field experiments in economics and clinical trials in medicine’, Journal of Economic Methodology, 23(2): 203222.
Geronimus, A. T. (1987), ‘On Teenage Childbearing and Neonatal Mortality in the United States’, Population and Development Review, 13(2): 245279.
Geronimus, A. T. (1996), ‘What teen mothers know’, Human Nature, 7(4): 323352.
Glennerster, R. (2013), Running Randomized Evaluations: A Practical Guide, New Haven, USA: Princeton University Press.
Hallsworth, M. (2016), ‘The softdrinks levy is working before it has even been applied’, Behavioural Insights Team Blog, November 11. Available at: http://www.behaviouralinsights.co.uk/uncategorized/the-soft-drinks-levy-is-working-before-it-has-even-been-applied/.
Hallsworth, M. (2016), ‘Seven Ways of Applying Behavioral Science to Health Policy’, in Robertson, C. T., Glenn Cohen, I., and Fernandez Lynch, H. (eds), Nudging Health: Health Law and Behavioral Economics, Johns Hopkins University Press, pp. 4051.
Hallsworth, M. and Sanders, M. (2016), ‘Nudge: Recent developments in behavioural science and public policy’, in Spotswood, F., Ed., Beyond Behaviour Change: Key Issues, Inderdisciplinary Approaches, and Future Directions, Bristol, UK: Policy Press.
Halpern, D. and Mason, D. (2015), ‘Radical Incrementalism’, Evaluation, 21(2): 143149.
IPSOS Mori (2017), ‘Trust in Professions: Long-term trends’, 30 November. Available at: https://www.ipsos.com/ipsos-mori/en-uk/trust-professions?view=wide.
Jung, A., Korinek, R. L. and Straßheim, H. (2014), ‘Embedded expertise: a conceptual framework for reconstructing knowledge orders, their transformation and local specificities’, Innovation: The European Journal of Social Science Research, 27(4): 398419.
Kettle, S., Hernandez-Hernandez, M. A., Ruda, S. and Sanders, M. (2016), Behavioral Interventions in Tax Compliance: Evidence from Guatemala, Policy Research working paper No WPS 7690; Impact Evaluation series. Washington, D.C.: World Bank Group.
Lepenies, R. and Małecka, M. (Forthcoming), ‘Behaviour Change: Extralegal, apolitical, scientistic?’, in Beck, S. and Strassheim, H. (eds), Handbook of Behavioural Change and Public Policy, UK: Edward Elgar Publishing.
Lepenies, R. and Małecka, M. (2015), ‘The Institutional Consequences of Nudging – Nudges, Politics, and the Law’, Review of Philosophy and Psychology, 6(3): 427437.
Lourenço, J. S., Ciriolo, E. and Almeida, S. R. and Troussard, X., Joint Research Centre (2016), Behavioural Insights Applied to Policy: European Report 2016 Brussels: European Union, http://publications.jrc.ec.europa.eu/repository/bitstream/JRC100146/kjna27726enn_new.pdf.
Malecka, M. and Nagatsu, M. (2017), ‘How behavioural research has informed consumer law: The many faces of behavioural research’ in Purnhagen, K., Sibony, A. and Micklitz, H. (eds.), Research Handbook on Methods in Consumer Law, UK: Edward Elgar Publishing.
Mance, H. (2016), ‘Britain has had enough of experts, says Gove’, Financial Times, 3 June. Available at: https://www.ft.com/content/3be49734-29cb-11e6-83e4-abc22d5d108c.
Quigley, M. (2014), ‘Are Health Nudges Coercive?Monash Bioethics Review, 32(1–2): 141158.
Reddy, S. G. (2012), ‘Randomise this! On poor economics’, Review of Agrarian Studies, 2(2): 6073.
Reiss, J. (2007), Error in Economics: Toward a More Evidence-Based Methodology, Oxford, UK: Routledge Publishing.
Reiss, J. (2014), ‘Struggling Over the Soul of Economics: Objectivity Versus Expertise’, in Martini, C., Boumans, M., Eds., Experts and Consensus in Social Science. Ethical Economy, Springer International Publishing, pp. 131152.
Sanders, M., Snijders, V. and Hallsworth, M. (2018), ‘Behavioural science and policy: where are we now and where are we going?Behavioural Public Policy, 2(2): 144167.
Tajfel, H., Ed. (1982), Social Identity and Intergroup Relations, Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
Thaler, R. H. (2015), ‘The Power of Nudges, For Good and Bad’, The Upshot, New York Times, 31 October. Available at: https://www.nytimes.com/2015/11/01/upshot/the-power-of-nudges-for-good-and-bad.html?_r=0.
Warin, M., Zivkovic, T., Moore, V., Ward, P. R. and Jones, M. (2015), ‘Short horizons and obesity futures: Disjunctures between public health interventions and everyday temporalities’, Social Science and Medicine, 128, 309315.
What Works Network (2014), ‘What works? Evidence for decision makers’, 25th November. Available at: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/378038/What_works_evidence_for_decision_makers.pdf.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Behavioural Public Policy
  • ISSN: 2398-063X
  • EISSN: 2398-0648
  • URL: /core/journals/behavioural-public-policy
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *
×

Metrics

Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed