Friday, August 18, 2023

Recent Resources on Ethics of Behavioural Science Applications

I have kept a long reading list on the ethics of behavioural science applications on this link. Along with Leonhard Lades, we developed a framework for integrating ethical questions into applications  - the FORGOOD framework described below and available here and many other resources and frameworks are available in the original link. 

Insights from the behavioural sciences are increasingly used by governments and other organizations worldwide to ‘nudge’ people to make better decisions. Furthermore, a large philosophical literature has emerged on the ethical considerations on nudging human behaviour that has presented key challenges for the area, but is regularly omitted from discussion of policy design and administration. We present and discuss FORGOOD, an ethics framework that synthesizes the debate on the ethics of nudging in a memorable mnemonic. It suggests that nudgers should consider seven core ethical dimensions: Fairness, Openness, Respect, Goals, Opinions, Options and Delegation. The framework is designed to capture the key considerations in the philosophical debate about nudging human behaviour, while also being accessible for use in a range of public policy settings, as well as training.

Recently, there have been a number of useful reports that have provided ideas and resources for integrating ethical considerations directly into public policy applications. One particularly useful paper from the OECD - "Good practice principles for ethical behavioural science in public policy" - described below develops a checklist for applied behavioural teams to use in applications. UNICEF also recently published a report on ethical issues in behavioural science projects involving children. 
For the past decade, behavioural science has been influencing public policy by applying principles of psychology, cognitive and social sciences, neuroscience and economics, to put individuals at the forefront of policy goals, and with an accurate rather than imagined understanding of human behaviour. Like any policy-making tool, the use of behavioural insights must be subject to ethical considerations that can arise at any point from scoping to policy scaling. This good practice guide offers practitioners and policy makers step-by-step guidance to prompt deliberations into how to use behavioural science ethically for public policy. It is designed to be a practical resource to promote the responsible use of behavioural science in the public sector.
I will be giving various lectures and talks on this topic during 2023/2024. One area that I have been developing in particular with a group of students and alumni is the ethics of practice in corporate environments and in particular how it relates to various responsibilities of business (with Bishin Ho and Annabel Gillard). I think behavioural ethics is a fascinating angle on issues such as power relations, corporate social responsibility, consumer technology, administrative burden, and other topics. 

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