Behavioural economics is a new and evolving field. The Geary institute is focused mainly on public policy applications but different organisations around the world apply behavioural economics in a wide range of domains. The OECD lists 196 institutions worldwide which are applying behavioural economics to public policy. Some examples of exciting applications of behavioural economics in public policy, non-profit work, and the corporate world are discussed below.
EARN is an American non-profit with the aim of helping low-income Americans take charge of their financial lives. EARN uses applications of financial technology and economic inclusion to support working families in setting aside the savings they need to achieve financial security and take advantage of opportunities.
The EARN Research Institute conducts research into behavioural economics, creating programs that effectively encourage savings behaviours.
Barclays Behavioural Finance
Barclays Bank started their Behavioural Finance unit in 2006. Their main aim is to use behavioural economics theory to create practical investing applications. One such application is the aim to challenge the ‘loss aversion’ which prevents people from making good investment decisions: “Investors deviate from good investing practice because good long-term investment decisions are invariably uncomfortable along the way. Our behavioural finance approach is not to ignore this human need for comfort, but to acknowledge it and ensure that we can help each of our clients achieve it as efficiently as possible.
Founded in Harvard in 2008, Ideas42 is a non-profit aiming to apply the behavioural sciences for a number of different social goods. Examples of their work include programs to increase uptake and understanding of safe reproductive health/family planning options in developing countries, working with the NYPD to make low-level tickets harder to ignore and therefore avoiding arrest warrants/jail time, and programs to increase civic engagement and voter turnout.
Qapital is a personal finance app which focuses on encouraging saving. The app is focused around organising saving into rules. For example, you could make a rule saying every time you order takeaway the app puts a little money into savings. Qapital hires behavioural economists to find the best ways to nudge people towards savings.
Intelliware is a Toronto-based software development and business consulting company which focuses on using new technologies to solve business problems for clients. Intelliware have made strides to apply behavioural economics principles to tackle certain consumer choice problems. One example of this is re-thinking how companies create incentives to challenge loss aversion. More examples can be found here: http://www.intelliware.com/wp-content/uploads/Behavioural-Economics-Engaging-Customers-2013.pdf
StickK is a goal-setting platform. The aim is to make people sign ‘commitment contracts’ in order to help them reach a goal (losing weight, saving money etc.). Applying principles of behavioural economics, notably loss aversion, the platform makes you put money on the line to create a greater incentive to sticking to your plans.
Recently purchased by Oracle, Opower is a digital platform used by major utilities companies such as as PG&E, Exelon, and National Grid. The platform uses big data methods to analyse large numbers of meter reads etc. in order to more efficiently reach regulatory requirements, lower costs, and reduce pollution.
Opower has leveraged behavioural economics principles in many ways. One such way is by using social norms to encourage energy savings. By simply giving consumers access to the average energy expenditure of their neighbourhood, Opower leverages social norm effects to encourage people to reduce their consumption
The Behavioural Insights Team
Founded in 2010 by the UK government, the Behavioural Insights Team is a combination public/private company aimed at applying behavioural economics insights to improve outcomes, particularly public policy outcomes. As stated in their mission statement, their main objectives are:
- making public services more cost-effective and easier for citizens to use;
- improving outcomes by introducing a more realistic model of human behaviour to policy; and wherever possible,
- enabling people to make ‘better choices for themselves’.
The Behavioural Insights Team works closely with the Geary Institute, delivering seminars and collaborating on certain research projects.
The ESRI Behavioural Economics Department does large amounts of research into behavioural economics, mostly with the aim of improving public policy. Notably, the department has founded the PRICE lab, a three year program aimed at using computer based lab experiments to understand how consumers make decisions around valuing and choosing between complex products. Pete Lunn, head of the ESRI Behavioural Economics Department, is a frequent collaborator with the Geary Institute. https://www.esri.ie/research/behavioural-economics/
Lemonade is an insurance company trying to use new technologies and innovations to revolutionise the field of insurance. Their aim is to make claiming insurance a less difficult process. Dan Ariely, Lemonade’s head behavioural officer, is tasked with using behavioural economics to improve trust between users and the company, with the aim of reducing false claims. More information can be found here.
Center for Advance Hindsight: Common Cents Lab
The Center for Advanced Hindsight is a behavioural science non-profit aimed at “Making people happier, healthier, and wealthier with behavioural science, at home and abroad.” A major part of this is the “Common Cents Lab”, a research initiative aimed at designing and testing interventions to increase financial well-being for low and moderate income groups in the US.
Abdul Jatif Jameel Poverty Action Lab
The Poverty Action Lab use scientific evidence, including behavioural economics, to influence policy aimed at poverty reduction.
European Union Commission Joint Research Centre Behavioural Insights Team
The European Union runs a Behavioural Science Joint Research Centre (JRC). The purpose of this JRC is to identify behavioural elements in policies and use insights from the behavioural sciences to make these more effective. The JRC creates its own research but also acts as an interstate knowledge sharing forum.
Penn University Medical Nudge Unit
Financial Conduct Authority
The Financial Conduct Authority is a UK based financial regulatory body which operates independently of the UK government. It regulates around 58,000 financial services firms and financial markets in the UK, and is funded through membership fees from these firms/markets. The FCA runs a research program known as Insight, with the aim of helping financial markets to work effectively. Part of this research is done in the field of behavioural economics.
Busara Centre for Behavioural Economics
Busara are a research and advisory group dedicated to advancing and applying behavioural science in the Global South. They have worked in many different areas such as financial inclusion and health policy in a number of different sub-saharan African countries.