Professor Till Grüne-Yanoff will deliver a public lecture to the Irish Behavioural Science and Policy Network on Wednesday 18th October at 6pm. There will be a wide-ranging Q+A session following the talk which will conclude at 7.30pm. The venue is the Royal Irish Academy. He will speak on behavioural economics and public policy, in particular on the role of policy in “boosting” ability to make good decisions under a variety of circumstances. The webpage to register for the event is available here.

Nudging and Boosting: Steering or Empowering Good Decisions

Ralph Hertwig and Till Grüne-Yanoff

Max Planck Institute for Human Development, Berlin and Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm

In recent years, policy makers worldwide have begun to acknowledge the potential value of insights from psychology and behavioral economics into how people make decisions. These insights can inform the design of nonregulatory and nonmonetary policy interventions—as well as more traditional fiscal and coercive measures. To date, much of the discussion of behaviorally informed approaches has emphasized “nudges,” that is, interventions designed to steer people in a particular direction while preserving their freedom of choice. Yet behavioral science also provides support for a distinct kind of nonfiscal and noncoercive intervention, namely, “boosts.” The objective of boosts is to foster people’s competence to make their own choices—that is, to exercise their own agency. Building on this distinction, we further elaborate on how boosts are conceptually distinct from nudges: The two kinds of interventions differ with respect to (a) their immediate intervention targets, (b) their roots in different research programs, (c) the causal pathways through which they affect behavior, (d) their assumptions about human cognitive architecture, (e) the reversibility of their effects, (f) their programmatic ambitions, and (g) their normative implications. We discuss each of these dimensions, provide an initial taxonomy of boosts, and address some possible misconceptions.


Till Grüne-Yanoff is professor of philosophy at the Royal Institute of Technology (KTH) in Stockholm.

His research focuses on the philosophy of science and on decision theory. In particular, he investigates the practice of modelling in science and engineering, develops formal models of preference consistency and preference change and discusses the evaluation of evidence in policy decision making. Click here for his Google Scholar page.

Till is editor of the journal Economics & Philosophy. He is also a member of the TINT Finnish Centre of Excellence in the Philosophy of Social Science in Helsinki, and a regular guest researcher at the Max Planck Institute of Human Development.

He lives with his wife and his two children in the beautiful Vasastan neighborhood of Stockholm.