An issue we have been discussing in relation to the centre is the range of disciplines to engage. As well as being an interesting academic exercise, this is important for a number of practical reasons. For example what graduates should we encourage to study with us for MSc and PhD (see our MSc programme here)? Which disciplines should we include in our workshops and seminars (events programme here)? Which disciplines should we seek to collaborate more with in terms of research (our publications here)? What collaborations might be built in terms of graduate courses and so on?
Below is a partial list of the disciplines that I believe could easily collaborate with the type of researchers in our group and others emerging globally under the broad behavioural science banner. As well as being partial it is also very broad-brush and we would need library shelves to do justice fully to even some of the bilateral interactions. Jon Elster's "Explaining Social Behaviour: More Nuts and Bolts for Social Sciences" is one of the best books I have read attempting to outline how social sciences interlock. Becoming an expert in all these areas would be too much for most if not all groups. But having a broad interdisciplinary attitude could facilitate understanding of many key problems. As a fundamentally cross-disciplinary effort behavioural science researchers are in a good position to drive this type of work.
Economics is my obvious starting point having developed from an Economics PhD. The development of market theory and the theories of consumer and firm provide a strong backdrop for modern behavioural science. The development of the behavioural economics paradigm has been instrumental in the wider development of an interdisciplinary behavioural science. Applied micro-econometric techniques increasingly underpin the evidence base for behavioural science. Management fields such as marketing, organisational studies and so are also clearly related.
Psychology is another obvious one and, along with Economics, form the two disciplines most commonly referred to as behavioural science. One view of what is happening now is a second marriage of psychology and economics after an unhappy century of separation (albeit with regular visits). Disciplines such as social psychology, health psychology, cognitive psychology provide many of the core ideas driving this area. Fields such as linguistics have also been involved in some recent papers (e.g. Chen on language and economic behaviour).
Disciplines such as sociology, political science, international relations are also clearly important in understanding societal and institutional forces impacting on behaviour. Identity sociology is already a key component of the literature (see my reading list on this). In particular, George Akerlof has been arguing that narratives have a causal role in the maintenance of group economic inequality and business cycles. His book Identity Economics, co-authored with Rachel Kranton, outlines their ideas in this area.
The inclusion of natural sciences is also widely being pursued across areas like neuroscience, genetics, epigenetics, human development and so on. Understanding biological mechanisms is clearly an important aspect of understanding decisions and outcomes. The labs of people like James Heckman, Nic Christakis and Ernst Fehr attest to this.
Many of the questions in behavioural science have ethical, legal and philosophical ramifications. One of the main figures in the development of the field, Cass Sunstein, is a prominent legal scholar. His thoughts on behavioural findings and their implications for regulation are documented, among many other places, in this article. Here is also a reading list on philosophical and ethical aspects of behavioural intervention I discussed earlier.
Spatial geography, environmental studies and history are both clearly important disciplines for understanding the impact of policies over long time-periods. For issues like causal identification of non-experimental impacts, scaling up and so on, such disciplines are key.
Ethnography and anthropology potential contribute substantially to understanding behaviour in its context. George Akerlof has done a huge amount of work on cross-over of anthropology and economics. I have to admit my own reading on this area is far more partial than it should be as I am often struck by how relevant social anthropological papers on economic issues are for the type of work emerging from behavioural science.
I posted before on humanities and behavioural economics. There are obviously important ways in which humanities should impact on the study of behaviour and one crucial way is understanding ideology and power relations.
One clear way in which such disciplines can collaborate on behavioural topics is in specific problems e.g issues like organ donation or pension auto-enrolment cut across many areas of thought. Workshops built around interdisciplinary explanations of such problems is one way we will try to build more links.