Behavioural insight and regulatory practice: Available as open access paper

The use of insights from the behavioural sciences in the development and implementation of regulation has quickly received interest from governments and scholarship around the globe. There are good reasons for this. Reading the experiences reported by policymakers and regulators, it becomes clear that using insights from the behavioural sciences ‘allows policy-makers to better understand and influence people’s behaviour’, which will ‘help [to] design public policies that work better, cost less, and help people to achieve their goals’.[1]

However, the foundations of this approach to policy and regulation, its application and its performance are not always well understood by those who are keen to implement it in public policy and practice.

To assist executives, managers and frontline workers in regulatory organisations and units who are interested in the use of insights from the behavioural sciences in the development and delivery of regulation, the Chair in Regulatory Practice at the Victoria University of Wellington has carried out a systematic review of a broad range of international academic literature on the use of behavioural insights in regulatory practice.

The first State of the Art in Regulatory Governance Research Paper is an outcome of this review. It addresses six themes: (1) the evolution of thinking about rational behaviour, (2) examples of the use of behavioural insights in regulation, (3) evidence of the workings of this approach, (4) experiments and randomised control trials to understand those workings, (5) ethical challenges, and (6) epistemic challenges. Before moving to those topics, it makes sense to define what is meant by using behavioural insights in regulatory practice—more colloquially known as ‘nudging’.

The paper is available as open access publication:

van der Heijden, Jeroen (2019). Behavioural insights and regulatory practice: A review of the international academic literature. State of the Art in Regulatory Governance Research Paper – 2020.01. Wellington: Victoria University of Wellington/Government Regulatory Practice Initiative.

Available for download here.


[1] European Commission. (2013). Behavioural economics. Retrieved from http://is.jrc.ec.europa.eu/pages/BE/BEindex.html

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