Sunday, November 13, 2022

Next Generation Behavioural Science Simulation

Along with my colleagues at LSE Department of Psychological and Behavioural Science,  Miriam Tresh, Bradley Franks, and Chris Hunt, with support from the EDEN Centre at LSE, we have developed a simulation exercise for our students (currently focused on undergraduates) which has various titles but is coming to be known as Next Generation Behavioural Science (NGBS). NGBS is a simulated non-profit research organisation that our undergraduate students encounter in their final year as part of a course on advanced applications of behavioural science. 

Students are assessed in two ways as part of this course - firstly they put together a portfolio of all the work they have conducted on the degree so far to illustrate how their ideas and skills are relevant to the organisation. They are then hired in various capacities (research analyst, policy analyst, stakeholder liaisons) to work on a set of projects for the agency, commissioned by a fictitious global philanthropy group. All this takes place alongside a set of lectures throughout the year that examine applied behavioural science applications, as well as lectures on wider issues such as ethical and cultural aspects of applied behavioural science. There are frequent classroom discussions about the ideal quality of a behavioural science non-profit, ethical aspects of projects, the future direction of this area etc., Students are encouraged to look closely at existing applied behavioural science groups and to reflect on good practice, and their own ethical and normative stances. 

It culminates in a simulation exercise where students work off-site in groups to finalise and present their projects.   Faculty attend either as executives from NGBS or representatives from the philanthropy organisation. Students work on their presentation throughout the day and are given some prompts as to areas of focus from the organisation. It finishes with a set of presentations and then the students spend the following week finalising the reports before submission. Topics last year included applied behavioural science projects in areas such as gambling, climate change, emerging digital financial products, pensions, pandemic readiness, and others.  Some random photos from the first event held at WeWorks Canary Wharf are below. Attending this event was one of my career highlights from the education side of my job, and in general the framing of the simulation encourages students to really give their best and come up with interesting ideas and to present them well. 

In terms of giving some shape as to the future direction of behavioural science, students are provided with a reading list to give them a sense of the type of things we are trying to cultivate. An indicative reading list is below but this changes rapidly each year 

Banerjee, A., Banerji, R., Berry, J., Duflo, E., Kannan, H., Mukerji, S., ... & Walton, M. (2017). From proof of concept to scalable policies: Challenges and solutions, with an application. Journal of Economic Perspectives, 31(4), 73-102.

Bavel, J. J. V., Baicker, K., Boggio, P. S., Capraro, V., Cichocka, A., Cikara, M., ... & Willer, R. (2020). Using social and behavioural science to support COVID-19 pandemic response. Nature human behaviour, 4(5), 460-471.

Chater, N., & Loewenstein, G. (2022). The i-Frame and the s-Frame: How Focusing on the Individual-Level Solutions Has Led Behavioral Public Policy Astray. Available at SSRN 4046264.

Dolan, P., & Galizzi, M. M. (2015). Like ripples on a pond: behavioral spillovers and their implications for research and policy. Journal of Economic Psychology, 47, 1-16.

Dolan, P., Hallsworth, M., Halpern, D., King, D., & Vlaev, I. (2010). “MINDSPACE: Influencing behaviour through public policy” Institute for Government and Cabinet Office.

Lades, L. K., & Delaney, L. (2022). Nudge FORGOOD. Behavioural Public Policy, 6(1), 75-94.

Michie, S., Van Stralen, M. M., & West, R. (2011). The behaviour change wheel: a new method for characterising and designing behaviour change interventions. Implementation science, 6(1), 1-12.

Milkman, K. L., Patel, M. S., Gandhi, L., Graci, H. N., Gromet, D. M., Ho, H., ... & Duckworth, A. L. (2021). A megastudy of text-based nudges encouraging patients to get vaccinated at an upcoming doctor’s appointment. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 118(20).

Muthukrishna, M., Bell, A. V., Henrich, J., Curtin, C. M., Gedranovich, A., McInerney, J., & Thue, B. (2020). Beyond Western, Educated, Industrial, Rich, and Democratic (WEIRD) psychology: Measuring and mapping scales of cultural and psychological distance. Psychological science, 31(6), 678-701.

OECD (2017), Behavioural Insights and Public Policy: Lessons from Around the World, OECD Publishing, Paris,

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