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From Nudge to…where now?


Behavioural science has made a major impact on important issues over the past decade, such as antimicrobial resistance, educational attainment, and sustainability. But it’s also clear that applied behavioural science needs to evolve to fulfil its true potential.

BIT has just published A Manifesto for Applying Behavioral Science – a landmark guide to the future of applied behavioral science. This Manifesto takes a clear-eyed look at challenges facing the field and offers 10 proposals to address them:

  1. Use behavioral science as a lens that can help us see all issues better, rather than as a tool for limited challenges.
  2. Build behavioral science into the design of organizations’ standard processes, to give it scale and sustainability.
  3. Step back, understand the system, and use behavioral science to make targeted changes that lead to wider results.
  4. Improve randomized controlled trials to better deal with the complexity of the real world.
  5. Approaches successful in one context can fail in another – find out why, and how we can adapt them better.  
  6. Don’t just think about biases in behavior – aim for practical theories that offer reliable ways of solving real-world problems.
  7. Predict what people will do, confront when you were wrong, and change your views accordingly.
  8. Be humble about what you know, more curious about why people do things, and help others use behavioral science to improve their own lives.
  9. Use data science to identify, understand and reduce inequities.
  10. Be realistic – recognize that behavioral scientists always bring their own values to whatever they do, and help the field to broaden its range of perspectives.

In this episode of Inside The Nudge Unit the Manifesto’s author and Managing Director of BIT in the Americas, Michael Hallsworth, takes to the streets of New York City to explain more about what point 3, the importance of ‘understanding the system’, means in the context of behavioural science.

The journey will take him from Times Square to Governors Island, discussing oysters, pedestrian crossings, plastic bags and much more.

The full Manifesto for Applying Behavioural Science is available now for free here.

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This episode was recorded in and around New York City by Sabeena Singhani. Our thanks to Pete Malinowski of the Billion Oyster Project and Rebecca Taylor of the University of Sydney for kindly agreeing to be interviewed.

Inside The Nudge Unit is a production of the Behavioural Insights Team.

Editing and sound design is by Andy Hetherington of Studio Gibbon

Producer is Rich O’Brien