Thursday, October 20, 2016


For the last few years, Kilkenny in Ireland has hosted a festival that brings together economists and comedians to speak about issues of the day. It was born during the financial crisis in Ireland, a period where conversations about technical issues of banking and bond markets were part of everyday discussions and source of much of the type of gallows humour that often leads to the best comedy. The format is a pretty big departure from the way academics usually communicate! However, the organisers have succeeded over the years in bringing some of the best minds in Economics to the festival and the reports I have heard about it have been very favourable. The combination of comedy and current affairs is pretty established e.g. the Daily Show, and it is interesting to see such a high public demand for this type of format. There will be a couple of behavioural science sessions at this year's event, including one with myself, Dan Ariely, Deirdre McCloskey, Joris Luyendijk, and the comedian/writer Colm O'Regan, and another with Rory Sutherland, Nasim Taleb, me, Pangiotis Mitkidis and comedian/presenter Dermot Whelan. I have obviously given public talks before but this is definitely a new format for me and looking forward to it.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Posts Busara Center for Behavioral Economics

See below for information about posts in behavioural science and policy research:
The Busara Center is growing once again and we are taking applications for new associates.

The Busara Center for Behavioral Economics is a nonprofit organization that uses social and behavioral science to solve problems in development and poverty alleviation. We currently operate in Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania and Nigeria, where we collaborate with organizations from around the world to implement world-class research and data-driven advisory and consulting. Busara has worked with governments, NGOs, private companies, and a number of leading universities and research organizations around the world on projects related to savings, inequality, entrepreneurship, and other questions central to development economics. We use rigorous, data-driven techniques paired with the latest in local behavioral research to help design solutions to further different organizations’ goals.

Now we are adding new associates to our team, to lead behavioral science research and advisory projects. If you are an exceptional, humble and passionate individual ready to tackle problems using new, innovative, evidence-based techniques, we'd love to hear from you.

Please find the job description and how to apply at
Applications are due by October 26th.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

9th Annual Irish Economics and Psychology Conference

Preliminary Programme: 9th Annual Irish Economics, Psychology, and Policy Conference

Queen's University Belfast

November 25th 2016 

The ninth annual one day conference on Economics and Psychology will be held on November 25th in Queen's University Belfast, jointly organised by researchers in QUB, ESRI, Stirling and UCD. The purpose of these sessions is to develop the link between Economics, Psychology, and cognate disciplines throughout Ireland. A special theme of these events is the implications of behavioural economics for public policy. As well as the annual workshop we have developed a broader network to meet more regularly to discuss work at the intersection of economics, psychology, and policy. This has had five meet-ups so far, as well as some offshoot sessions. Anyone interested in this area is welcome to attend. However, spaces are limited so please sign up here to register. 

830am - 850am: Registration

850am Welcome

9am to 10.40am: Behavioural Science and Policy Case Studies (Chair: David Comerford)

Katja Fells (RWI) "Behavioral Economics and Energy Conservation – A Systematic Review of Innovative Interventions and their Causal Effects”.
Nicole Andelic (QUB) "Debt advice is better delivered face-to-face than via telephone".
Thomas Conway (NUIG): "Investigating the effects of the Great Recession on the mental health of Irish third-level students."
Mark McGovern (QUB) "Disparities in Early Life Investments and Children’s Time Use".
Cathal FitzGerald (DCU) "Surprisingly Rational? The Case of 100% Mortgages in Ireland in 2005".

10.40am to 11am: Coffee

11am to 1pm:  Measurement, Method, and Behavioural Science (Chair: Pete Lunn)

Carla Prentice (QUB): "Time Discounting as a Mediator of the Relationship between Financial Stress and Health".
Seda Erdem (Stirling): "Discrete Choice Experiments and Behavioural Economics".
Aine Ni Choisdealbha (ESRI) "Harnessing habitual behaviour in the laboratory: an experiment on how busy consumers respond to environmental information".
Arkady Zgonnikov (NUIG): "Using decision space visualisations to characterise individual decision makers".
Marek Bohacek (ESRI) "Investigating a central mechanism of economic decision making: the ability to trade-off incommensurate attributes".
Danny Campbell (Stirling): "Discrete Choice Experiments and Behavioural Economics".

1pm to 140pm: Lunch

140pm to 320 pm: Regulation, Policy, and Behavioural Science (Chair: Liam Delaney)

Clare Delargy (BIT): "Behavioural Insights and Public Policy".
Michael Daly (Stirling): "Self-control, health, and public policy".
Maureen Maloney and Alma McCarthy (NUIG): "Automatic enrolment and employee risk:  An analysis using a bounded rationality framework".
Leonhard Lades (Stirling) "Self-control, well-being, and normative measures of welfare".
Karl Purcell and Laura Watts (IGEES). "Behavioural Economics and Irish policy".

320pm to 330pm: Coffee

330pm to 415pm: Keynote Speaker 1: Professor Muireann Quigley (Newcastle Law School) "Libertarian Paternalism & Nudging: On Alluring Concepts Public Policy".

415pm to 5pm: Keynote Speaker 2: Professor Michelle Baddeley (UCL) Title TBC "Behavioural Economics and Regulation".

Friday, September 16, 2016

Economics and Qualitative Research

Economics is mostly a quantitative discipline from the basic undergraduate principles courses to the most recent editions of the top journals. The extent to which economics students should be exposed to qualitative research methods is being debated in various ways in the UK, particularly in the context of the ESRC postgraduate training guidelines, that stipulate that all ESRC-funded postgraduates should receive training in both quantitative and qualitative research methods.

There a plethora of cultural, philosophical, and practical barriers to integrating such methodologies into mainstream economics. Many economists will object that the strength of economics has been the ability to generate testable predictions from rigorous mathematical theoretical models. Others might simply point to the expectations of students arriving onto graduate Economics programme that they will be provided with the most rigorous quantitative tools to perform modern economic analysis. Having said that, Economists are increasingly become involved in real-world field trials, where an element of qualitative research is necessary to understand the process and potentially also the mechanism of the interventions and policies being tested. Professional economists in this context will increasingly be required to understand, at least, how to intelligently consume such information.

There have also been some strong precedents for the use of qualitative research methods in Economics. Truman Bewley's famous work on why wages don't fall during a recession is one example of a well-regarded Economics work that came from structured interviews with business decision makers. More generally, the potential for qualitative research to provide greater understanding of the nature of various types of economic phenomena needs to be discussed in greater depth.

I will use this post to keep track of some useful references on qualitative research in Economics. Suggestions and comments welcome.

The review paper below provides a useful overview of qualitative and mixed methodological designs that might be useful in Economics.
Starr (2014). Qualitative and mixed-methods research in economics: surprising growth, promising future. Journal of Economic Surveys, Volume 28, Issue 2,  Pages 238–264.
Qualitative research in economics has traditionally been unimportant compared to quantitative work. Yet there has been a small explosion in use of quantitative approaches in the past 10–15 years, including ‘mixed-methods’ projects which usequalitative and quantitative methods in combination. This paper surveys the growing use of qualitative methods in economics and closely related fields, aiming to provide economists with a useful roadmap through major sets of qualitativemethods and how and why they are used. We review the growing body of economic research using qualitative approaches, emphasizing the gains from using qualitative- or mixed-methods over traditional ‘closed-ended’ approaches. It is argued that, although qualitative methods are often portrayed as less reliable, less accurate, less powerful and/or less credible than quantitative methods, in fact, the two sets of methods have their own strengths, and how much can be learned from one type of method or the other depends on specific issues that arise in studying the topic of interest. The central message of the paper is that well-done qualitative work can provide scientifically valuable and intellectually helpful ways of adding to the stock of economic knowledge, especially when applied to research questions for which they are well suited.
The chapter "Does Qualitative Research fit in Economics?" is also worth reading.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Readings on Self-Control and Public Policy

I am in early stages of developing a 2017 workshop on self-control and public policy. The purpose of this post is to collect some relevant readings to prompt discussion and thought about this topic. Potential sub-topics of the workshop include those below. Thoughts and comments welcome. 

+ Self-control and education policy (including early interventions). Can and should self-control be fostered? 

+ Self-control and financial regulation.

+ Self-control and health policy.

+ Self-control and employment activation.

+ Ideology and Self-control: potential for "victim blaming".

+ Self-control in psychological research and economic models.

+ Trait and state measures of self-control.

+ Case study on policy issues in ADD treatment.

+ Nudging and self-control.

+ Self-control and other individual differences: how does it compare in importance?

+ What does self-control research imply for debates about poverty and inequality? 

+ What can self-control research, particularly given it is an individual trait, contribute to understanding time trends in things like smoking and obesity?

Adler (2015). Disadvantage, self-control, and health. PNAS, August 18, 2015
vol. 112 no. 33.

Substantial inequities in disease risk and mortality by socioeconomic status (SES) and race challenge us to understand how health disparities emerge and can be eliminated. Building on a strong foundation of studies documenting disparities in a range of diseases and health problems, researchers are increasingly focusing on potentially modifiable mechanisms through which SES and race influence disease risk. One set of mechanisms involves risk factors for disease that occur more frequently in disadvantaged groups that, if reduced, could close the gap in morbidity and mortality. These include lack of access to health care, exposure to toxins and physical hazards, health-damaging behaviors, and adverse social environments (1). A second set of mechanisms involves protective factors that, if bolstered in disadvantaged groups, could do the same. These include social resources such as social support and social participation and psychological resources such as optimism, self-esteem, and perceived control (2). Whereas it is generally assumed that reducing risk factors and/or increasing protective factors will be beneficial in reducing disparities, Miller et al. (3) provide a more qualified assessment of one protective factor—self-regulation—and suggest that although greater self-regulation improves psychosocial outcomes, it may increase biological risk in more disadvantaged groups.

Baumeister & Vonash (2015). Uses of self-regulation to facilitate and restrain addictive behavior. Addictive Behaviors, Volume 44, May 2015, Pages 3–8.

We apply self-regulation theory to understand addictive behavior. Self-regulation and volition depend on a limited resource, and when that resource has been depleted, self-regulation becomes prone to fail. Moving beyond traditional models that have emphasized the relevance of self-regulation to quitting addiction, we propose that self-regulation is used both to facilitate and resist addictive behaviors. Self-regulation is often needed to overcome initial aversion to drugs and alcohol, as well as to maintain addictive usage patterns despite situational obstacles (e.g., illegality, erratic availability, family disapproval). Sustaining addiction also requires preventing use from spiraling out of control and interfering with other aspects of life. More generally, the automaticity and irresistibility of addictive responses may have been overrated, as indicated by how addictive behaviors respond rationally to incentives and other concerns. Self-regulation does facilitate quitting, and relapse may be especially likely when self-regulatory capabilities are depleted.

Bernheim et al (2015). Poverty and Self-Control. Econometrica, Volume 83, Issue 5, September 2015, Pages 1877–1911.

We argue that poverty can perpetuate itself by undermining the capacity for self-control. In line with a distinguished psychological literature, we consider modes of self-control that involve the self-imposed use of contingent punishments and rewards. We study settings in which consumers with quasi-hyperbolic preferences confront an otherwise standard intertemporal allocation problem with credit constraints. Our main result demonstrates that low initial assets can limit self-control, trapping people in poverty, while individuals with high initial assets can accumulate indefinitely. Thus, even temporary policies that initiate accumulation among the poor may be effective. We examine implications concerning the effect of access to credit on saving, the demand for commitment devices, the design of financial accounts to promote accumulation, and the variation of the marginal propensity to consume across income from different sources. We also explore the nature of optimal self-control, demonstrating that it has a simple and behaviorally plausible structure that is immune to self-renegotiation.

Browne et al (2015). Protecting Consumers from Themselves: Consumer Law and the Vulnerable Consumer. Drake L. Rev. 157.

Burgess (2012). Nudging Healthy Lifestyles: The UK Experiments with the Behavioral Alternative to Regulation and the Market. Eur. J. Risk Reg. 3 (2012).

Daly, Delaney, Egan & Baumeister (2015). Childhood Self-Control and Unemployment Throughout the Life Span: Evidence From Two British Cohort Studies. Psychological Science April 13.

The capacity for self-control may underlie successful labor-force entry and job retention, particularly in times of economic uncertainty. Analyzing unemployment data from two nationally representative British cohorts (N = 16,780), we found that low self-control in childhood was associated with the emergence and persistence of unemployment across four decades. On average, a 1-SD increase in self-control was associated with a reduction in the probability of unemployment of 1.4 percentage points after adjustment for intelligence, social class, and gender. From labor-market entry to middle age, individuals with low self-control experienced 1.6 times as many months of unemployment as those with high self-control. Analysis of monthly unemployment data before and during the 1980s recession showed that individuals with low self-control experienced the greatest increases in unemployment during the recession. Our results underscore the critical role of self-control in shaping life-span trajectories of occupational success and in affecting how macroeconomic conditions affect unemployment levels in the population.

Daly, Baumeister, Delaney & Maclachlan (2014). Self-control and its relation to emotions and psychobiology: evidence from a Day Reconstruction Method study.
Journal of Behavioral Medicine, February 2014, Volume 37, Issue 1, pp 81–93.

This study aimed to ascertain whether self-control predicts heart rate, heart rate variability, and the cortisol slope, and to determine whether health behaviors and affect patterns mediate these relationships. A sample of 198 adults completed the Self-Control Scale (Tangney in J Pers 72:271–322, 2004), and reported their exercise levels, and cigarette and alcohol use. Participants provided a complete account of their emotional experiences over a full day, along with morning and evening salivary cortisol samples and a continuous measure of cardiovascular activity on the same day. High trait self-control predicted low resting heart rate, high heart rate variability, and a steep cortisol slope. Those with high self-control displayed stable emotional patterns which explained the link between self-control and the cortisol slope. The self-controlled smoked less and this explained their low heart rates. The capacity to sustain stable patterns of affect across diverse contexts may be an important pathway through which self-control relates to psychophysiological functioning and potentially health.

Daly, Delaney, Baumeister (2015). Self-control, future orientation, smoking, and the impact of Dutch tobacco control measures. Addictive Behaviors Reports,
Volume 1, June 2015, Pages 89–96.


The pronounced discrepancy between smokers' intentions to quit and their smoking behavior has led researchers to suggest that many smokers are time inconsistent, have self-control problems, and may benefit from external efforts to constrain their consumption. This study aims to test whether self-control and future orientation predict smoking levels and to identify if these traits modify how cigarette consumption responds to the introduction of tobacco control measures.


A sample of Dutch adults (N = 1585) completed a measure of self-control and the Consideration of Future Consequences Scale (CFCS) in 2001 and indicated their tobacco consumption each year from 2001 to 2007. In 2004, a workplace smoking ban and substantial tax increase on tobacco was introduced in the Netherlands. To identify the potential impact of these tobacco control measures we examined whether participants smoked or were heavy smokers (20 + cigarettes per day) each year from 2001 to 2007.


Participants with high self-control and CFCS scores showed lower rates of smoking across the seven year period of the study. The 2004 smoking restrictions were linked with a subsequent decline in heavy smoking. This decline was moderated by self-control levels. Those with low self-control showed a large reduction in heavy smoking whereas those with high self-control did not. The effects were, however, temporary: many people with low self-control resumed heavy smoking 2–3 years after the introduction of the tobacco restrictions.


The immediate costs which national tobacco control measures impose on smokers may assist smokers with poor self-control in reducing their cigarette consumption.

Diamond & Lee (2011). Interventions Shown to Aid Executive Function Development in Children 4 to 12 Years Old. Science, Vol. 333, Issue 6045, pp. 959-964.

To be successful takes creativity, flexibility, self-control, and discipline. Central to all those are executive functions, including mentally playing with ideas, giving a considered rather than an impulsive response, and staying focused. Diverse activities have been shown to improve children’s executive functions: computerized training, noncomputerized games, aerobics, martial arts, yoga, mindfulness, and school curricula. All successful programs involve repeated practice and progressively increase the challenge to executive functions. Children with worse executive functions benefit most from these activities; thus, early executive-function training may avert widening achievement gaps later. To improve executive functions, focusing narrowly on them may not be as effective as also addressing emotional and social development (as do curricula that improve executive functions) and physical development (shown by positive effects of aerobics, martial arts, and yoga).

Evans & Kim (2013). Childhood Poverty, Chronic Stress, Self-Regulation, and Coping. Child Development Perspectives, Volume 7, Issue 1,March 2013
Pages 43–48.

Poverty is a powerful factor that can alter lifetime developmental trajectories in cognitive, socioemotional, and physical health outcomes. Most explanatory work on the underlying psychological processes of how poverty affects development has focused on parental investment and parenting practices, principally responsiveness. Our primary objective in this article was to describe a third, complementary pathway—chronic stress and coping—that may also prove helpful in understanding the developmental impacts of early childhood poverty throughout life. Disadvantaged children are more likely than their wealthier peers to confront a wide array of physical stressors (e.g., substandard housing, chaotic environments) and psychosocial stressors (e.g., family turmoil, separation from adult caregivers). As exposure to stressors accumulates, physiological response systems that are designed to handle relatively infrequent, acute environmental demands are overwhelmed. Chronic cumulative stressors also disrupt the self-regulatory processes that help children cope with external demands.

Fishbach (2015). Nudging self-control: A smartphone intervention of temptation anticipation and goal resolution improves everyday goal progress. Motivation Science, Vol 1(3), Sep 2015, 137-150.

Practitioners and researchers alike explore ways of increasing motivation. Whereas previous research mainly explores interventions that operate on people’s goals (e.g., via goal setting), we explore an intervention that operates on overcoming interfering temptations and nudging self-control success. We report an experiment testing a 1-week smartphone field intervention. Self-control involves anticipating and battling temptation; hence, we encouraged participants in a treatment condition to anticipate temptation (i.e., obstacles) for daily goal pursuit and to envision resolutions. They generated these responses for half the goals they listed daily. Participants in the treatment (anticipation + resolution) condition reported more successful pursuit of the daily goals for which they listed obstacles and planned resolutions than for their other goals. We found no such difference between daily goals for participants in a control condition (no anticipation + and no resolution) and for participants in an anticipation-only condition. The beneficial effect of listing obstacles and resolutions was further limited to goals that require self-control and are stronger for people with an assessment self-regulatory mode. Finally, participants in the treatment condition reported increased general happiness during the period of the intervention. We conclude that a simple intervention can improve self-control. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2016 APA, all rights reserved)

Friese (2011). On taming horses and strengthening riders: Recent developments in research on interventions to improve self-control in health behaviors. Self and Identity, Volume 10, 2011 - Issue 3.

This article reviews recent developments in the design of interventions to improve health behavior. Based on dual-system models we classify intervention strategies according to whether they aim at: (i) changing impulsive structures; (ii) improving the ability to self-control; or (iii) changing reflective structures. We review recent work on re-training of automatic associations, attentional biases, and automatic approach–avoidance tendencies, training of self-control and executive functioning, and taxonomic work on health behavior intervention techniques. The theoretical framework as well as the empirical evidence suggest that a combination of both established and newly developed intervention techniques may prove fruitful for future intervention programs. However, several techniques are still in their infancy and more research is needed before clear recommendations can be given.

Gathergood (2012). Self-control, financial literacy and consumer over-indebtedness. Journal of Economic Psychology, Volume 33, Issue 3, June 2012, Pages 590–602.

This paper examines the relationship between self-control, financial literacy and over-indebtedness on consumer credit debt among UK consumers. Lack of self-control and financial illiteracy are positively associated with non-payment of consumer credit and self-reported excessive financial burdens of debt. Consumers who exhibit self-control problems are shown to make greater use of quick-access but high cost credit items such as store cards and payday loans. We also find consumers with self-control problems are more likely to suffer income shocks, credit withdrawals and unforeseen expenses on durables, suggesting that lack of self-control increases exposure to a variety of risks. In most specifications we find a stronger role for lack of self-control than for financial illiteracy in explaining consumer over-indebtedness. We discuss the policy implications of these findings.

Glanz & Bishop (2010). The Role of Behavioral Science Theory in Development and Implementation of Public Health Interventions. Annual Review of Public Health, Vol. 31: 399-418.

Increasing evidence suggests that public health and health-promotion interventions that are based on social and behavioral science theories are more effective than those lacking a theoretical base. This article provides an overview of the state of the science of theory use for designing and conducting health-promotion interventions. Influential contemporary perspectives stress the multiple determinants and multiple levels of determinants of health and health behavior. We describe key types of theory and selected often-used theories and their key concepts, including the health belief model, the transtheoretical model, social cognitive theory, and the ecological model. This summary is followed by a review of the evidence about patterns and effects of theory use in health behavior intervention research. Examples of applied theories in three large public health programs illustrate the feasibility, utility, and challenges of using theory-based interventions. This review concludes by identifying cross-cutting themes and important future directions for bridging the divides between theory, practice, and research.

Hagger & Chatzisarantis (2013). The Strength Model of Self-Control: Recent Advances and Implications for Public Health. Social Neuroscience and Public Health, pp 123-139.

The strength model of self-control conceptualizes self-control as a resource that enables individuals to actively control impulses and urges, but is finite and, after a period of exertion, becomes depleted. In this chapter we discuss the main hypotheses of the strength model, review the current state of the research adopting the model including the recovery, conservation, and training hypotheses, identify the mechanisms that underpin the model including recent advances, summarize the contribution of the model to public health contexts, and provide details of the future research directions to advance the contribution the model makes to understanding self-control. We conclude that the model has provided a useful framework to understand self-control in numerous health-related contexts with training or practice on self-control offering considerable potential for interventions to promote health-related behavior. Future research should elucidate the mechanisms underpinning the effects of self-control resource depletion on behavior and identify the moderators of the effect.

Hengartner et al (2016). Big Five personality traits may inform public health policy and preventive medicine: Evidence from a cross-sectional and a prospective longitudinal epidemiologic study in a Swiss community. Journal of Psychosomatic Research, Volume 84, May 2016, Pages 44–51.


Some evidence documents the importance of personality assessments for health research and practise. However, no study has opted to test whether a short self-report personality inventory may comprehensively inform health policy.


Data were taken from a population-based epidemiologic survey in Zurich, Switzerland, conducted from 2010–2012. A short form of the Big Five Inventory was completed by n = 1155 participants (54.4% women; mean age = 29.6 years), while health-related outcomes were taken from a comprehensive semi-structured clinical interview. A convenience subsample averaging n = 171 participants additionally provided laboratory measures and n = 133 were subsequently followed-up at least once over a maximal period of 6 months.


Personality traits, in particular high neuroticism and low conscientiousness, related significantly to poor environmental resources such as low social support (R2 = 0.071), health-impairing behaviours such as cannabis use (R2 = 0.071), and psychopathology, including negative affect (R2 = 0.269) and various mental disorders (R2 = 0.060–0.195). The proportion of total variance explained was R2 = 0.339 in persons with three or more mental disorders. Personality significantly related to some laboratory measures including total cholesterol (R2 = 0.095) and C-Reactive Protein (R2 = 0.062). Finally, personality prospectively predicted global psychopathological distress and vegetative symptoms over a 6-month observation period.


Personality relates consistently to poor socio-environmental resources, health-impairing behaviours and psychopathology. We also found some evidence for an association with metabolic and immune functions that are assumed to influence health. A short personality inventory could provide valuable information for preventive medicine when used as a means to screen entire populations for distinct risk exposure, in particular with respect to psychopathology.

Hoyt et al (2014). “Obesity Is a Disease”: Examining the Self-Regulatory Impact of This Public-Health Message. Psychological Science, April 2014 vol. 25 no. 4 997-1002.

In the current work, we examined the impact of the American Medical Association’s recent classification of obesity as a disease on weight-management processes. Across three experimental studies, we highlighted the potential hidden costs associated with labeling obesity as a disease, showing that this message, presented in an actual New York Times article, undermined beneficial weight-loss self-regulatory processes. A disease-based, relative to an information-based, weight-management message weakened the importance placed on health-focused dieting and reduced concerns about weight among obese individuals—the very people whom such public-health messages are targeting. Further, the decreased concern about weight predicted higher-calorie food choices. In addition, the disease message, relative to a message that obesity is not a disease, lowered body-image dissatisfaction, but this too predicted higher-calorie food choices. Thus, although defining obesity as a disease may be beneficial for body image, results from the current work emphasize the negative implications of this message for self-regulation.

Moffitt et al (2011). A gradient of childhood self-control predicts health, wealth, and public safety. February 15, 2011, vol. 108 no. 7.

Policy-makers are considering large-scale programs aimed at self-control to improve citizens’ health and wealth and reduce crime. Experimental and economic studies suggest such programs could reap benefits. Yet, is self-control important for the health, wealth, and public safety of the population? Following a cohort of 1,000 children from birth to the age of 32 y, we show that childhood self-control predicts physical health, substance dependence, personal finances, and criminal offending outcomes, following a gradient of self-control. Effects of children's self-control could be disentangled from their intelligence and social class as well as from mistakes they made as adolescents. In another cohort of 500 sibling-pairs, the sibling with lower self-control had poorer outcomes, despite shared family background. Interventions addressing self-control might reduce a panoply of societal costs, save taxpayers money, and promote prosperity.

Muraven (2010). Building self-control strength: Practicing self-control leads to improved self-control performance. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, Volume 46, Issue 2, March 2010, Pages 465–468.

Self-control performance may be improved by the regular practice of small acts of self-control. Ninety-two adults’ self-control capacity was assessed using the stop signal paradigm before they started practicing self-control and again at the end of 2 weeks. Participants who practiced self-control by cutting back on sweets or squeezing a handgrip exhibited significant improvement in stop signal performance relative to those who practiced tasks that did not require self-control. Participants who did not practice self-control believed that the tasks should improved self-control, engaged in tasks that were effortful and made self-control salient, but did not actually require self-control. Supplemental analyses suggested that only practicing self-control built self-control capacity; the improved outcomes cannot be explained by self-fulfilling prophecies, increased self-efficacy or awareness of self-control. The results may have implications for understanding the development of self-control in both children and adults, as well as clinical implications for treating disorders that involve low self-control.

Piquero et al (2016). A meta-analysis update on the effectiveness of early self-control improvement programs to improve self-control and reduce delinquency.
Journal of Experimental Criminology, June 2016, Volume 12, Issue 2, pp 249–264.


To update Piquero et al.’s (Justice Quarterly 27:803–834, 2010) meta-analysis on early self-control improvement programs.


Screening of eligible studies was carried out for the period between January 2010 and September 2015. An additional seven studies were identified, which were added to the original database of 34 studies, totaling an overall sample of 41 eligible studies. A random effects model was used to obtain an overall mean effect size estimate. Additional analyses were performed to assess publication bias and moderation.


Overall average, positive, and significant effect sizes were observed for improving self-control (0.32) and reducing delinquency (0.27). There was evidence of publication bias for the self-control improvement outcomes, as well as some evidence of moderation for both self-control improvement and delinquency outcomes.


Early self-control improvement programs are an effective evidence-based strategy for improving self-control and reducing delinquency.

Piquero et al (2010). Self-Control Interventions for Children Under Age 10 for Improving Self-Control and Delinquency and Problem Behaviors: A Systematic Review. The Campbell Collaboration Library of Systematic Reviews.

Piquero et al (2010). On the Malleability of Self‐Control: Theoretical and Policy Implications Regarding a General Theory of Crime. Justice Quarterly,
Volume 27, 2010 - Issue 6.

Gottfredson and Hirschi’s general theory of crime has generated significant controversy and research, such that there now exists a large knowledge base regarding the importance of self‐control in regulating antisocial behavior over the life‐course. Reviews of this literature indicate that self‐control is an important correlate of antisocial activity. Some research has evaluated programmatic efforts designed to examine the extent to which self‐control is malleable, but little empirical research on this issue has been carried out within criminology, largely because the theorists have not paid much attention to policy proscriptions. This study evaluates the extant research on the effectiveness of programs designed to improve self‐control up to age 10 among children and adolescents, and assesses the effects of these programs on self‐control and delinquency/crime. Meta‐analytic results indicate that (1) self‐control programs improve a child/adolescent’s self‐control, (2) these interventions also reduce delinquency, and (3) the positive effects generally hold across a number of different moderator variables and groupings as well as by outcome source (parent‐, teacher‐, direct observer‐, self‐, and clinical report). Theoretical and policy implications are also discussed.

Song et al (2013). When Health Policy and Empirical Evidence Collide: The Case of Cigarette Package Warning Labels and Economic Consumer Surplus. American Journal of Public Health: February 2014, Vol. 104, No. 2, pp. e42-e51.

In its graphic warning label regulations on cigarette packages, the Food and Drug Administration severely discounts the benefits of reduced smoking because of the lost “pleasure” smokers experience when they stop smoking; this is quantified as lost “consumer surplus.” Consumer surplus is grounded in rational choice theory. However, empirical evidence from psychological cognitive science and behavioral economics demonstrates that the assumptions of rational choice are inconsistent with complex multidimensional decisions, particularly smoking. Rational choice does not account for the roles of emotions, misperceptions, optimistic bias, regret, and cognitive inefficiency that are germane to smoking, particularly because most smokers begin smoking in their youth. Continued application of a consumer surplus discount will undermine sensible policies to reduce tobacco use and other policies to promote public health.

Wideman et al (2016). Rationale, design and methods for the RIGHT Track Health Study: pathways from childhood self-regulation to cardiovascular risk in adolescence. BMC Public HealthBMC series, 16:459.

Cardiovascular risk factors during adolescence—including obesity, elevated lipids, altered glucose metabolism, hypertension, and elevated low-grade inflammation—is cause for serious concern and potentially impacts subsequent morbidity and mortality. Despite the importance of these cardiovascular risk factors, very little is known about their developmental origins in childhood. In addition, since adolescence is a time when individuals are navigating major life changes and gaining increasing autonomy from their parents or parental figures, it is a period when control over their own health behaviors (e.g. drug use, sleep, nutrition) also increases. The primary aim of this paper is to describe the rationale, design and methods for the RIGHT Track Health Study. This study examines self-regulation as a key factor in the development of cardiovascular risk, and further explores health behaviors as an explanatory mechanism of this association. We also examine potential moderators (e.g. psychosocial adversities such as harsh parenting) of this association.

RIGHT Track is a longitudinal study that investigates social and emotional development. The RIGHT Track Health Study prospectively follows participants from age 2 through young adulthood in an effort to understand how self-regulatory behavior throughout childhood alters the trajectories of various cardiovascular risk factors during late adolescence via health behaviors. Individuals from RIGHT Track were re-contacted and invited to participate in adolescent data collection (~16.5, 17.5 and 18+ years old). Individuals completed assessments of body composition, anthropometric indicators, fitness testing (via peak oxygen consumption), heart rate variability during orthostatic challenge, 7-day accelerometry for physical activity and sleep, 24-h dietary recalls, and blood analysis for biomarkers related to metabolic syndrome, inflammatory status and various hormones and cytokines. Individuals also completed extensive self-report measures on diet and eating regulation, physical activity and sedentary behaviors, sleep, substance use, medical history, medication use and a laboratory-day checklist, which chronicled previous day activities and menstrual information for female participants.

Insights emerging from this analysis can help researchers and public health policy administrators target intervention efforts in early childhood, when preventing chronic disease is most cost-effective and behavior is more malleable.

Wills et al (2015). Self-control and substance use prevention: A translational analysis. Handbook of adolescent drug use prevention: Research, intervention strategies, and practice , (pp. 121-139).

This chapter examines the implications of self-regulation research for the prevention of early onset drug use. It outlines a dual-process approach to conceptualizing and assessing two regulation constructs that we term self-control and dysregulation. We summarize research that has related self-control or dysregulation measures to adolescent substance use and focus on both main effects and moderation effects. We also review available research that has implemented a self-control intervention and examined effects on outcome variables, including, but not limited to, smoking and alcohol use. We outline a translational model that suggests how to include self-regulation concepts in primary or secondary prevention programs. The chapter concludes with a discussion of several questions that could be addressed in further research on self-regulation and substance use prevention. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2016 APA, all rights reserved)

Friday, September 09, 2016

Stirling Management Unemployment Research Workshop November 16th

See below for the provisional schedule of a workshop we will host in Stirling on November 16th on the work we are conducting in the areas of unemployment and precarious employment. Registration is free but places are limited due to the space so we ask you to register in advance on the eventbrite page.


12pm - 1215pm: Opening and Objectives

1215pm - 1230pm: David Bell "Topics in Employment and Underemployment". (Joint with David Blanchflower).

1230pm - 1245pm: Sharon Bolton: "Precarious employment". (Joint with Darren McGuire, Lila Skountridaki, Kerstin Maier Barcroft, Knut Laaser).

1245pm - 1pm: Paul Thompson: "Dimensions of Underemployment".

1pm-115pm: Liam Delaney: "Benefits sanctions: ethics and evidence". (Joint with Mirko Moro, Michael Daly, Christopher Boyce, Alex Wood).

115pm- 2pm: Lunch

2pm-215pm: Elaine Douglas: "Aging and Employment: Haggis as Data Source". (Joint with David Bell).

215pm-230pm: Ron McQuaid: "Unemployment policies and the Work Programme".


245pm - 3pm: Christopher Boyce: "Unemployment and Personality". (Joint with Michael Daly, Alex Wood).

3pm - 315pm: Tanya Wilson: "Domestic Violence and Unemployment".

315pm - 330pm: Victoria Mousteri: "Precarious employment and mental health". (Joint with Liam Delaney, Michael Daly).


345pm - 430pm: Panel on developing research and policy on unemployment and precarious employment.

Online Resources and Background to Stirling Research 

Below is a set of links to papers, reports and mentions of research on unemployment that has been undertaken here in Stirling over the last 8 years or so. It is not intended to be a comprehensive list and I will add to it over the next few months. We have also run several workshops and seminars in this area (recent one here). We will announce soon a workshop on youth unemployment in Europe and I very much welcome suggestions. We are also currently advertising PhD studentships, two of which are relevant to this agenda. 

Boyce CJ, Wood AM, Daly M & Sedikides C (2015) Personality change following unemployment, Journal of Applied Psychology, 100 (4), pp. 991-1011. DOI:

[Media coverage of this paper in the Daily Mail,, STV News, Science Daily, Business Insider]

Boyce, C. J., & Wood, A., M., & Brown, G. D. A. (2010). The dark side of conscientiousness: Conscientious people experience greater drops in life satisfaction following unemployment. Journal of Research in Personality, 44, 535-539.

[Media coverage of this paper at Psychology Today ]

Egan, M., Daly, M., Delaney, L. (2016). Adolescent psychological distress, unemployment, and the Great Recession: evidence from the National Longitudinal Study of Youth 1997. Social Science & Medicine, Volume 156, May 2016, Pages 98–105

[Media coverage of this paper on PsychCentral ,Herald Scotland, Psychological Science, Medical Daily]

Daly, M., Delaney., L., Egan., M., & Baumeister, R. (2015). Childhood self-control and unemployment throughout the life span: evidence from two British cohort studies. Psychological Science, 26(6):709-23.

[Media coverage of this paper in the Independent and at Science Daily]

Daly, M., Delaney., L and Egan., M. (2015). Childhood psychological distress and adult unemployment: evidence from two British cohort studies. Social Science and Medicine, Volume 124, January 2015, Pages 11–17.

[Feature on this paper on UK Data Service, Fair Play for Children]

Daly, M., & Delaney, L. (2013). The scarring effect of unemployment throughout adulthood on psychological distress at age 50: Estimates controlling for early adulthood distress and childhood psychological factors. Social Science and Medicine, Volume 80, 19-23.

Egdell V & McQuaid R (2016) Supporting disadvantaged young people into work: insights from the Capability Approach, Social Policy and Administration, 50 (1), pp. 1-18.

Bilfulco, Egdell, McQuaid, Berthet, Simon, Monteleone, Mozzana, Rosenstein, Dif-Pradalier, Bonvin, Hollywood, Rosendal Jensen, Christrup Kjeldsen, Sztandar-Sztanderska, Zieleńska, Haidinger, Kasper, Düker, Ley, Bergström (2015). Capabilities for Voice, Work and Education: Critical Analysis of Programmes for Disadvantaged Young People in Europe. Facing Trajectories from School to Work. Springer.

McQuaid (2015). How to beat the hidden discrimination at the heart of the job hunt. The Conversation.

McQuaid (2014). Youth unemployment produces multiple scarring effects. LSE Blog.

Graham H & McQuaid R (2014) Exploring the impacts of the UK government’s welfare reforms on lone parents moving into work. Glasgow Centre for Population Health. Glasgow Centre for Population Health.

Fuertes V & McQuaid R (2013) The Work Programme: a new public governance policy or a continuation of new public management? . EVeP, 20. Fondazione Volontariato e Partecipazione.

Hollywood E, Egdell V & McQuaid R (2012) Youth unemployment initiatives and the impact on disadvantaged youth. The Skills Development Scotland Co Ltd. Spotlight article: Labour Market Focus.

Hollywood E, Egdell V & McQuaid R (2012) Addressing the issue of disadvantaged youth seeking work, Social Work and Society, 10 (1).

Egdell V, Hollywood E & McQuaid R (2015) 11.2.4 Addressing the Issue of Unemployment among Disadvantaged Youth in Scotland: Developing the Capability for Work. In: Otto H-U, Atzmüller R, Berthet T, Bifulco L, Bonvin J-M, Chiappero-Martinetti E, Egdell V, Halleröd B, Kjeldsen CC, Kwiek M, Schröer R, Vero J, Zielenska M (ed.). Facing Trajectories from School to Work: Towards a Capability-Friendly Youth Policy in Europe. Technical and Vocational Education and Training: Issues, Concerns and Prospects, 20, Dordrecht: Springer, pp. 248-256.

Hollywood E, Egdell V, McQuaid R & Michel-Schertges D (2012) Methodological issues in operationalising the capability approach in empirical research: An example of cross-country research on youth unemployment in the EU, Social Work and Society, 10 (1).

Bown, Neary, Vittal Katikireddi, Thomson, McQuaid, Leyland, Frank, Leavons, de Pellette, Kiran, Macdonald (2015). Protocol for a mixed-methods longitudinal study to identify factors influencing return to work in the over 50s participating in the UK Work Programme: Supporting Older People into Employment (SOPIE). BMJ Open 2015;5:e010525.

Gilmartin M & Korobilis D (2012) On Regional Unemployment: An Empirical Examination of the Determinants of Geographical Differentials in the UK, Scottish Journal of Political Economy, 59 (2), pp. 179-195.

Allan G, Swales JK, Gilmartin M & McGregor PG (2012) Report on the evidence for net job creation from policy support for energy efficiency and renewable energy: An appraisal of multi-sectoral modelling techniques. UK Energy Research Centre (UKERC).

Anderberg D, Rainer H, Wadsworth J & Wilson T. Unemployment and Domestic Violence: Theory and Evidence (Forthcoming/Available Online), Economic Journal.

[Media coverage of this paper at Science Daily

Bell D & Eiser D (2016) Migration and fiscal policy as factors explaining the labour-market resilience of UK regions to the Great Recession, Cambridge Journal of Regions, Economy and Society, 9 (1), pp. 197-215.

Brown R & Mawson S (2016) The geography of job creation in high-growth firms: the implications of 'growing abroad', Environment and Planning C: Government and Policy, 34 (2), pp. 207-227.

Okay-Somerville B & Scholarios D.  Position, possession or process? Understanding objective and subjective employability during university-to-work transitions (Forthcoming/Available Online), Studies in Higher Education.

Bolton, S., & Laaser, K. (2013). Work, employment and society through the lens of moral economy. Work Employment & Society June 2013 vol. 27 no. 3 508-525.

Bolton, S., & Wibberley, G. (2014). Domiciliary Care: The Formal and Informal Labour Process. Sociology, vol. 48 no. 4 682-697. 

Bolton, S., & Houlihan, M. (2009). Work Matters: Critical Reflections on Contemporary Work. Palgrave Macmillan.

Egan M, Daly M, Delaney L, Boyce CJ & Wood AM. Adolescent Conscientiousness Predicts Lower Lifetime Unemployment (Forthcoming), Journal of Applied Psychology.

Thompson, P. (2013). ‘Good when they want to be’: migrant workers in the supermarket supply chain. Human Resource Management Journal, Volume 23, Issue 2, Pages 129–143.

Bell & Blanchflower


Bell, D.N.F. and Blanchflower, D.G. (2015). Youth unemployment in Greece: measuring the challenge. IZA Journal of European Labor Studies, December 2015, 4:1.

Blanchflower, D.G (2015). As good as it gets? The UK labour market in recession and recovery. National Institute Economic Review, 231, Feb 2015.

Bell, D.N.F. and Blanchflower, D.G. (2014). Labor Market Slack in the United Kingdom. Peterson Institute for International Economics Working Paper No. 14-2.

Bell, D.N.F. and Blanchflower, D.G. (2014). The Happiness Trade-Off between Unemployment and Inflation. Journal of Money, Credit and Banking, Volume 46, Issue S2, pages 117–141, October 2014.

Bell, D.N.F. and Blanchflower, D.G. (2013). Underemployment in the UK Revisited. National Institute Economic Review May 2013 vol. 224 no. 1 F8-F22

Blanchflower & Oswald (2013). The Danger of High Home Ownership:Greater Unemployment. The CAGE-Chatham House Series, No. 10, October 2013

Bell, D.N.F. and Blanchflower, D.G. (2011) “Young People and the “Great Recession”, Oxford Review of Economic Policy 2011 27: pp. 241-267

Bell, D.N.F. and Blanchflower, D.G. (2011). ‘Youth Unemployment in Europe and theUnited States’, Nordic Economic Policy Review No 2

Bell, D.N.F. and Blanchflower, D.G. (2011). ‘Underemployment in the Great Recession’, National Institute Economic Review, 215, January, R23-R33

Bell, D.N.F., and Blanchflower, D.G. (2011) ‘The Crisis, Policy Reactions and Jobs’in ‘Making Globalization Socially Sustainable’, World Trade Organisation/International Labour Organisation

Bell, D.N.F. and Blanchflower, D.G. (2010). ‘The UK Labour Market in the GreatRecession’, National Institute Economic Review, 214, October, R3-R25

Bell, D.N.F and Blanchflower D.G. (2010). ‘Recession and Unemployment in the OECD’, CESifo Forum, Issue 1, March, pp.14-21

Bell D & Blanchflower D (2010) Youth Unemployment: Deja Vu?. Stirling Economics Discussion Paper, 2010-04.

Bell D & Blanchflower D (2009) What should be done about rising unemployment in the UK?. Stirling Economics Discussion Paper, 2009-06.

Mentions of Bell and Blanchflower work on youth unemployment in Hansard:

Hansard House of Commons Debates, 6th July 2009, Volume No. 495, Part No. 106, column 724:

Hansard House of Commons Debates, 13th July 2011, Volume No. 531, Part No. 187, Column 352:

Hansard House of Commons Debates, 26th March 2009, Volume No. 490, Part No. 54, Column 440:

Youth Unemployment and the Future Jobs Fund - Work and Pensions Committee, Written Evidence ordered by the House of Commons to be printed 13 December 2010. Written evidence submitted by the Confederation of British Industry (CBI):

Examples of press and blog reports of Bell and Blanchflower work on youth unemployment.

Jan 2016. The walled world of work. The Economist.

Blanchflower (2015). David Blanchflower: Young people are suffering from austerity in the UK as well as in Greece. Independent.

Blanchflower (2014). David Blanchflower: Reasons to be concerned by the rise of self-employment. Independent.

McFall, John (2009). The Road to Recovery. The Guardian, 22nd March. Available at:

Delaney, Liam (2009). Bell and Blanchflower - Unemployment in the OECD. The Irish Economy (Blog entry, 4th October). Available at:

Centre for Analysis of Youth Transitions (2011). Growth Seminar, Institute for Fiscal Studies. Summary available at:

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

MSc Behavioural Science Dissertation Titles

Below are many of the dissertation titles from our MSc class in the last three years (chosen as the ones I happen to have on my email rather than for any systematic reason). Was a fascinating mix of work and gives a sense of the type of topics people here have been addressing.

Reported gender discrimination:  A between countries study of women in STEM and health occupations.

Public attitudes and snoopers:  A study on terrorism priming effects on public acceptance of the draft investigatory powers bill.

The effect of temporal distance on consumer purchasing decisions:  A discrete choice experimental approach.

Do people like self-control?  Using a day reconstruction method to investigate the extent to which people like to control themselves.

Self-control and media use: The role of implementation intentions and commitment devices in procastinatory media use.

Traffic light labelling: A choice based and ratings based conjoint analysis of the size manipulation of colour codes and the provision of TFL key card information on food choices and health value.

Promoting household recycling in Singapore's public housing estate:  Testing a habit change intervention in a quasi-experimental field study.

Nudge at the end of the rainbow: attitudes to nudging in South Africa.

A matter of life and death:  The effects of priming life expectancy on pensions decumulation decisions.

Discretionary savings and individual subjective perceptions in the UK.

Rewarding Altruistic Motives and Valuable Services: The Role of Gratitude in Understanding Consumer Psychology and Behavior.

Lay Rationalism's influence on Material Versus Experiential Preferences and Experienced Outcomes: Maximising Happiness or Good Economic Use of Money.

Smartphone Use, Work-Home Interference and Subjective Well-being.

A review of behavioral insights into at-retirement decision making in the UK context: Framing and fund allocation decisions.

Stick or Twist?  The power of defaults and anchoring in auto-enrolment pension schemes.

Non-cognitive personality predictors of job satisfaction across gender and facets of human capital, and relationships between career progression and life satisfaction.

Future orientation as a determinant of human capital: a behavioural scientific analysis on the impact of the delay of gratification on human capital development.

Associations between childhood self-regulation and adult socioeconomic status: evidence from the British Cohort Study.

Exploring the personality profile of the "green consumer" - explaining individual heterogeneity in willingness to pay for environmentally friendly goods.

Can our social proof heuristic and health priming increase healthy food choices and preference for healthy foods?

Applying behavioural economics to understand and change savings behaviours.