12:30pm Saturday 21 October 2017

How behavioural insights could save millions of pounds

This will be the fundamental question addressed in a public lecture which aims to help organisations make key policy decisions.

With governments, businesses and charities all having to tighten the purse strings, the Centre for Market and Public Organisation (CMPO) at the University of Bristol is sharing the latest insights into ‘behavioural science’ – the economics, psychology and sociology behind people’s actions – and how policies can take these into account.

The talk, which takes place on Tuesday [4 September], will also look at how policies are being increasingly analysed using randomised controlled trials.

For example, the government’s Behavioural Insights Team was set-up in July 2010 to find innovative ways to encourage, enable and support people to make better choices for themselves, improve their lives and save money. This could include being more energy efficient, dealing with debt or quitting smoking.

Its latest annual report concluded that these behavioural insights could save taxpayers hundreds of millions of pounds and save thousands of lives each year,

The team’s work draws on insights from the growing body of academic research in the fields of behavioural economics and psychology which show how often subtle changes to the way in which decisions are framed can have big impacts on how people respond to them.

CMPO’s Michael Sanders and Alex Gyani, from the University of Reading, will explain how this research is influencing current government policy.

Michael said: “In this difficult economic climate, it is more important than ever that government use its resources more effectively. Behavioural economics – applying the lessons of both economics and psychology to create a better picture of human behaviour – has a lot to offer both to our understanding of ourselves and to the creation of public policy, as long as these lessons are properly applied and tested.

“One high-profile example of this in action is how the government’s Behavioural Insights Team changed the wording on letters send to people who didn’t pay their tax. They let people know that most people in their area pay increases payment by 33 per cent. This small change, which cost nothing to do, raised £150million for the exchequer – a good result by anyone’s reckoning. Plus, by experimenting with this kind of policy, we can really unpack what’s causing it – and it’s not always what you expect.”

Places are limited and will be allocated on a first-come, first-served basis. Please email cmpo-admin@bristol.ac.uk to reserve a place.


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