Behavioural science has proven to be extremely effective in bettering the impact of government policies worldwide
Many policies are aimed at influencing people’s behaviour. The most well-intentioned policies can fail, however, if they are not designed to be compatible with the way people actually think and make decisions. This is where behavioural science comes into policymaking. A foundational understanding of human behaviour can lead not only to more effective policies, but enhanced decision-making and well-being. In 2015, the World Bank became one such entity that began to explore the relevance and potential benefit of behavioural insights to development policy, and now there are 202 public entities, including countries and development agencies that are working towards this objective. These entities have come together to pool their resources and knowledge in the Mind, Behavior, and Development Unit (eMBeD) initiative.
So far, they have worked together on over 85 projects and have compiled and published their findings. Countries like Poland, Kosovo and Guatemala join India in attempting to rationalise their tax regimes. These are great examples of low-cost interventions that can yield high returns and which focus on making it easy for the end-user. Another method that focuses on the mindset of the citizen is that of improving user touchpoints and service deliveries. This can vary from incentivising energy efficient behaviours, to increasing preventative healthcare and reducing debt. Governments that do end up adopting this not only improve the lives of citizens, but also raise trust levels between themselves and the people they serve. Utilising behavioural science can also increase empathy, donations as well as civility. In Canada, for example, units are applying behavioural science principles to increase contributions to fundraising initiatives. Although behavioural science has grown by leaps and bounds within these countries, policymakers around the world should continue making further efforts to better the impact of their policies.