The Behavioral Foundations of Public Policy

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In recent years, remarkable progress has been made in behavioral research on a wide variety of topics, from behavioral finance, labor contracts, philanthropy, and the analysis of savings and poverty, to eyewitness identification and sentencing decisions, racism, sexism, health behaviors, and voting. Research findings have often been strikingly counterintuitive, with serious implications for public policymaking. In this book, leading experts in psychology, decision research, policy analysis, economics, political science, law, medicine, and philosophy explore major trends, principles, and general insights about human behavior in policy-relevant settings. Their work provides a deeper understanding of the many drivers—cognitive, social, perceptual, motivational, and emotional—that guide behaviors in everyday settings. They give depth and insight into the methods of behavioral research, and highlight how this knowledge might influence the implementation of public policy for the improvement of society.

This collection examines the policy relevance of behavioral science to our social and political lives, to issues ranging from health, environment, and nutrition, to dispute resolution, implicit racism, and false convictions. The book illuminates the relationship between behavioral findings and economic analyses, and calls attention to what policymakers might learn from this vast body of groundbreaking work.

Wide-ranging investigation into people's motivations, abilities, attitudes, and perceptions finds that they differ in profound ways from what is typically assumed. The result is that public policy acquires even greater significance, since rather than merely facilitating the conduct of human affairs, policy actually shapes their trajectory.

  • The first interdisciplinary look at behaviorally informed policymaking
  • Leading behavioral experts across the social sciences consider important policy problems
  • A compendium of behavioral findings and their application to relevant policy domains
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Editorial Reviews

New York Times - David Brooks
[Behavioral Foundations of Public Policy] is a master compendium of what we know.
From the Publisher
"[Behavioral Foundations of Public Policy] is a master compendium of what we know."—David Brooks, New York Times

"I would recommend this book to anyone looking for a comprehensive perspective on the potential and limitations of the behavioural insights popularized by Nudge and similar works. . . . Those in government, non-profits, and the private sector interested in empirically supported ways to motivate people to act in their own best interest will find a rich source of examples and exposure to underlying theory in The Behavioral Foundations of Public Policy."—Jennifer Miller, LSE Review of Books

"[This] is a commanding summary of scholarly work testing some of the most influential theories of how and why people behave as they do, and will be a valuable resource for students, researchers and policy makers looking for a balanced and comprehensive discussion of what can work and what is not known."—Manu Savani, Political Studies Review

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780691137568
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press
  • Publication date: 1/10/2013
  • Pages: 532
  • Product dimensions: 7.80 (w) x 10.20 (h) x 1.40 (d)

Meet the Author

Eldar Shafir is the William Stewart Tod Professor of Psychology and Public Affairs in the Department of Psychology and the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University.

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Table of Contents

Foreword vii
Daniel Kahneman
List of Contributors xi
Acknowledgments xvii
Introduction 1
Eldar Shafir

Part 1. Prejudice and Discrimination

  • Chapter 1. The Nature of Implicit Prejudice: Implications for Personal and Public Policy 13
  • Curtis D. Hardin, Mahzarin R. Banaji
  • Chapter 2. Biases in Interracial Interactions: Implications for Social Policy 32
  • J. Nicole Shelton, Jennifer A. Richeson, John F. Dovidio
  • Chapter 3. Policy Implications of Unexamined Discrimination: Gender Bias in Employment as a Case Study 52
  • Susan T. Fiske, Linda H. Krieger

Part 2. Social Interactions

  • Chapter 4. The Psychology of Cooperation: Implications for Public Policy 77
  • Tom Tyler
  • Chapter 5. Rethinking Why People Vote: Voting as Dynamic Social Expression 91
  • Todd Rogers, Craig R. Fox, Alan S. Gerber
  • Chapter 6. Perspectives on Disagreement and Dispute Resolution: Lessons from the Lab and the Real World 108
  • Lee Ross
  • Chapter 7. Psychic Numbing and Mass Atrocity 126
  • Paul Slovic, David Zionts, Andrew K. Woods, Ryan Goodman, Derek Jinks

Part 3. The Justice System

  • Chapter 8. Eyewitness Identification and the Legal System 145
  • Nancy K. Steblay, Elizabeth F. Loftus
  • Chapter 9. False Convictions 163
  • Phoebe Ellsworth, Sam Gross
  • Chapter 10. Behavioral Issues of Punishment, Retribution, and Deterrence 181
  • John M. Darley, Adam L. Alter

Part 4. Bias and Competence

  • Chapter 11. Claims and Denials of Bias and Their Implications for Policy 195
  • Emily Pronin, Kathleen Schmidt
  • Chapter 12. Questions of Competence: The Duty to Inform and the Limits to Choice 217
  • Baruch Fischhoff, Sara L. Eggers
  • Chapter 13. If Misfearing Is the Problem, Is Cost-Benefit Analysis the Solution? 231
  • Cass R. Sunstein

Part 5. Behavioral Economics and Finance

  • Chapter 14. Choice Architecture and Retirement Saving Plans 245
  • Shlomo Benartzi, Ehud Peleg, Richard H. Thaler
  • Chapter 15. Behavioral Economics Analysis of Employment Law 264
  • Christine Jolls
  • Chapter 16. Decision Making and Policy in Contexts of Poverty 281
  • Sendhil Mullainathan, Eldar Shafir

Part 6. Behavior Change

  • Chapter 17. Psychological Levers of Behavior Change 301
  • Dale T. Miller, Deborah A. Prentice
  • Chapter 18. Turning Mindless Eating into Healthy Eating 310
  • Brian Wansink
  • Chapter 19. A Social Psychological Approach to Educational Intervention 329
  • Julio Garcia, Geoffrey L. Cohen

Part 7. Improving Decisions

  • Chapter 20. Beyond Comprehension: Figuring Out Whether Decision Aids Improve People's Decisions 351
  • Peter Ubel
  • Chapter 21. Using Decision Errors to Help People Help Themselves 361
  • George Loewenstein, Leslie John, Kevin G. Volpp
  • Chapter 22. Doing the Right Thing Willingly: Using the Insights of Behavioral Decision Research for Better Environmental Decisions 380
  • Elke U. Weber
  • Chapter 23. Overcoming Decision Biases to Reduce Losses from Natural Catastrophes 398
  • Howard Kunreuther, Robert Meyer, Erwann Michel-Kerjan

Part 8. Decision Contexts

  • Chapter 24. Decisions by Default 417
  • Eric J. Johnson, Daniel G. Goldstein
  • Chapter 25. Choice Architecture 428
  • Richard H. Thaler, Cass R. Sunstein, John P. Balz
  • Chapter 26. Behaviorally Informed Regulation 440
  • Michael S. Barr, Sendhil Mullainathan, Eldar Shafir

Part 9. Commentaries

  • Chapter 27. Psychology and Economic Policy 465
  • William J. Congdon
  • Chapter 28. Behavioral Decision Science Applied to Health-Care Policy 475
  • Donald A. Redelmeier
  • Chapter 29. Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? Debiasing the Policy Makers Themselves 481
  • Paul Brest
  • Chapter 30. Paternalism, Manipulation, Freedom, and the Good 494
  • Judith Lichtenberg

Index 499

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