News

Simple nudges that are not so easy

In this paper, Denise de Ridder and colleagues critically review three assumptions that govern the debate on the legitimacy of nudging interventions as a policy instrument: (1) nudges may violate autonomous decision-making; (2) nudges lend themselves to easy implementation in public policy; and (3) nudges are a simple and effective mean for steering individual choice in the right direction.

Click here to read the article

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Minor Well-being by design

This year Denise de Ridder will coordinate the minor Well-being by design. This minor is appealing for all students with an interest in health and well-being in the broader sense and combines knowledge from Psychology, Interdisciplinary Social Science, and Law, Economics and Governance.

Click here to find more information

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Meer dan één oorzaak voor langlopende letselschade zaken

Ivo Giessen heeft samen met collega's in opdracht van De Letselschade Raad in 2019 en 2020 onderzoek gedaan naar langlopende letselschadezaken. De centrale vraag was: wat zijn kenmerken van letselschadezaken die niet binnen twee jaar zijn afgesloten?

Klik hier voor meer informatie en het rapport

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Hoe gedragen toezichthouders zich onder druk?

Een oordeel vormen – het is dagelijkse kost voor toezichthouders. Maar hoe zorgvuldig doen zij dit als er conflicterende verwachtingen zijn rondom hun besluit? Dat onderzochten Thomas Schillemans en Marija Aleksovska, in samenwerking met de Inspectieraad, de Nederlandse School voor Openbaar Bestuur (NSOB) en de Inspectie Gezondheidszorg en Jeugd (IGJ). De conclusies zijn hoopgevend: ondanks de druk werken toezichthouders secuur, snel en strategisch en nemen daarmee hun verantwoordelijkheid.

Klik hier voor het hele artikel

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Een mondkapje laat zien dat je aan andermans belang denkt

Van oproepen tot zelfbeheersing is weinig te verwachten. Maar wel tot sociaal gedrag. Hoogleraar Denise de Ridder, in de Gedragscolumn over afstand houden „voor jou”. (NRC, 5 juni 2020)

Klik hier voor het hele artikel.

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Joram Feitsma wins Bleddyn Davies Prize 2020

Affiliated researcher Joram Feitsma has been awarded the 2020 Bleddyn Davies Prize for a paper published in Policy & Politics in 2019. The Bleddyn Davies Prize, which acknowledges scholarship of the very highest standard by an early career academic, and was awarded jointly to: Joram Feitsma (Utrecht University School of Governance) and to Toby Lowe, Jonathan Kimmitt, Rob Wilson, Mike Martin and Jane Gibbon. Joram Feitsma won the prize for his article ‘Brokering Behaviour Change: the Work Of Behavioural Insights Experts In Government.'

"In his outstanding paper, Joram Feitsma beautifully illustrates one of the main hallmarks of Policy & Politics in his forensic analysis foregrounding the politics of the behavioural insights movement. He describes how, in their efforts to professionalise, many contemporary governments have embraced the idea of evidence-based policy through behavioural insights. With the aim of making policies more behavioural science based, its frontstage role models tend to assume a straightforward, instrumental and apolitical view of the science-policy relationship that seems – and the author proves – to be unrealistic."

Click here to read more
Click here to read the paper

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Study What Works
with Stephanie Rosenkranz

Utrecht University conducted the study What Works (Weten wat werkt) under commission for the Municipality of Utrecht and the Municipality of Zeist. The research addresses the question: What is the best way to guide people on social assistance (back) towards paid work or other forms of social participation? In the study, 752 individuals entitled to social assistance in Utrecht volunteered and were randomly divided into four different treatment groups. Each group received a different treatment for sixteen months.

Click here to read the English summary
Click here to read more about the project (in Dutch)
Click here to read the report (in Dutch)

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Leg beter uit hoe we ons gedrag moeten aanpassen​

Het was misplaatst om de burger verwijten te maken. De overheid moet in de coronacrisis goed gedrag juist faciliteren, schrijft hoogleraar psychologie Denise de Ridder in de Gedragscolumn. (NRC, 24 maart 2020)

Klik hier voor het hele artikel

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Keynote speaker Prof. Wendy Wood

Habit Event 2020 - Understanding Habits in Societal Context
New IOS-event on May 15

A major part of our behavioural repertoire is frequently exhibited and executed in the same environment and has taken on a habitual character. Habits make behaviour efficient and are effective in shaping social norms and practices that hold societies together. However, they are also assumed to underlie contemporary societal problems, such as health issues and climate change. The important role of habit in societal context indicates that institutions need to be optimally attuned to the actual habitual behaviours of people in society at large in order to be able to develop solutions for societal challenges. 

In this symposium, five experts in habit research and habit interventions will question how to understand, change, or harness, habits in society. The talks will provide different perspectives on the habit concept and will range from more basic habit theory to interventions. In the panel discussion, we aim to bridge the gap between theory and practice and hope to identify opportunities where habit research can make a difference.

For more information and the programme, click here

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De kwaliteit van (juridische) oordelen

In het Nederlands Juristenblad doen Thomas Schillemans en Ivo Giesen verslag van drie verkennende experimenten naar de kwaliteit van beoordelingen door professionele beoordelaars in de publieke sector. De inzet daarvan is om te leren van de gedragswetenschappen in onderzoek naar kwaliteit en effectiviteit van professioneel oordelen.

Klik hier voor het hele artikel

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Boekuitgave Denkend Bestuur

Op 16 oktober sprak prof. Thomas Schillemans, verbonden aan de NSOB, zijn inaugurele rede uit aan de Universiteit Utrecht op de leerstoel bestuur en beleid: verantwoording, gedrag en instituties. Naar aanleiding daarvan is een boekuitgave 'Denkend bestuur' verschenen. In deze oratie breekt Thomas Schillemans een lans voor denkend bestuur. Denkend bestuur gaat over de waardering van deskundigheid en oordeelsvermogen in het bestuur en over het systematisch inrichten van prikkels in het bestuur die mensen – van politiek leiders in Den Haag tot publieke professionals op de werkvloer – óók aanzetten tot kritisch-constructief nadenken. Denkend bestuur is daarmee ook een rehabilitatie van deskundigheid in het bestuur, naast andere waarden.

Klik hier voor de publicatie

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Oplossingen uitproberen leidt ook tot betere wetenschap

Een onderzoeker die vaststelt hoe echte mensen zich gedragen in de echte wereld, komt met betere hypothesen. Gedragspsycholoog Denise de Ridder over Nobelprijswinnaar en ‘randomista’ Esther Duflo. (NRC, 6 december 2019)

Klik hier voor het hele artikel

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Public lecture Sander van der Linden

On Thursday November 21, Sander van der Linden (University Lecturer in Social Psychology at Cambridge University) gave a public lecture on Socially Situated Nudges. These social nudges (or ‘snudges’) are the social brother of regular nudges. They inform people about other peoples’ behavior and raise normative expectations. As such, they could be transmissible from one person to another, thereby possibly enhancing the impact of the intervention even further. The nature of social nudges could be explicit, implicit, offline or online.

In his talk, van der Linden claimed that the nudge movement has been socially impoverished, as well as ignorant of the largest issues in society. To illustrate he discussed a few of the most prototypical nudges, such as the fly in the urinal or the Save More Tomorrow program, which are not social in nature. Yet, examples abound of effective nudges which are social in nature, such as the well-known Opower energy program or the use of social norms in letters as used by the Behavioural Insights Team.

Van der Linden made a plea for the implementation of social nudges and he highlighted several advantages of those. One possible advantage of social nudges could be that they are not short-lived in their effectiveness. The norms communicated with social nudges can be internalized, and can spread from one person to another. As van der Linden pointed out, many social processes are recursive: the more people adhere to a certain social norm, the stronger the norm becomes, and the more people will join the bandwagon.

Finally, van der Linden shared his ideas about upping the social IQ of nudges. He concluded that while social nudges may still be simple, they can turn a drop into a wave, and transform an individual into a crowd. And, as van der Linden, stated: crowds can change the world.

The lecture was followed by thought provoking reflections from sociology (prof. Vincent Buskens), philosophy (dr. Joel Anderson), political science (prof. Barbara Vis), and psychology (dr. Marieke Adriaanse). The session closed off with reflections from prof. Will Tiemeijer (The Netherlands Scientific Council for Government Policy) and dr. Thomas Dirkmaat (Behavioral Insights Network NL) about the practical implications of socially situated nudges.

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Inaugural lecture of Thomas Schillemans | The Thinking State 

Professor Thomas Schillemans gave his inaugural lecture on 16 October for accepting his position as professor in the faculty of Law, Economics and Governance of Utrecht University, with a special interest in Accountability, Behaviour and Governance. He was appointed in this position on 1 July 2018 by the Executive Board of Utrecht University. In the lecture he addressed ‘The Thinking State: Accountability, Behavior and Centrifugal Pressure’

His chair, placed under Utrecht University School of Governance (USG) partly at the behest of the Netherlands School of Public Administration, is affiliated with the interdisciplinary research theme Institutions for Open Societies at Utrecht University.

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Leeratelier Gedrag en Bestuur

Met trots presenteert de NSOB is samenwerking met de Universiteit Utrecht de nieuwe opleiding ‘Gedrag en Bestuur’. Een opleiding waarin gedrag(sbëinvloeding) en nudging in het openbaar bestuur centraal staan. In een gevarieerd programma worden beleidsmakers inspiratie, kennis en handvatten aangereikt voor het werken met kennis van gedrag. Op de pagina's van de Universiteit Utrecht en de NSOB vindt u meer informatie.

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Beter klimaatgedrag krijg je door mensen blij te maken

Veel mensen hebben moeite om klimaatvriendelijk gedrag te vertonen. Dat gebeurt pas als mensen kunnen geloven dat hun gedrag ertoe doet. Denise de Ridder in de Gedragscolumn. (NRC, 10 september 2019)

Voor het hele artikel: klik hier

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Seminar on Socially Situated Nudges | November 20-21, 2019

with Sander van der Linden, Cambridge University

In this two-day seminar, we aim to bring together scholars, policy makers and practitioners to discuss when and how the concept of nudges that are often aimed at increasing citizen personal benefit can be extended to address important public policy topics that relate to the benefit of all (‘prosocial nudges’). Whereas personal benefit for a group of individuals caused by a nudging intervention may have important societal consequences (e.g., lower health care costs when less people are obese because they have been exposed to nudges to eat less fatty foods), new concepts of nudges should also address societal benefit when there is no immediate personal benefit or even personal costs, such as for example in case of a range of sustainability issues (energy consumption, meat consumption, public transport).

Send an email to t.t.ng@uu.nl for more information.

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Brand new minor 
Well-being by design: Behavioral foundations and public policy [link]

‘Good health and well-being for all’ is one of the Global Goals determined by world leaders in 2015. Both for individuals and societies at large, a high level of well-being is essential for their potential to flourish. It has even been argued that the level of population well-being is a more important indicator of the (economic) performance of countries than financial indicators like the Gross Domestic Product.

Achieving this goal of good health and well-being, however, critically depends on a complex interplay between factors at the level of the individual, their (social) environment, and the society they live in. These micro-, meso-, and macrolevel factors, can thus not be understood in isolation. Rather, society calls for graduates with novel multidisciplinary insights to promote citizens’ well-being.

In the minor Well-being by design: Behavioral foundations and public policy, students will learn to adopt such a broad multidisciplinary perspective by combining knowledge from psychology, interdisciplinary social science, and public administration.

We will address four illustrative themes throughout the courses: health, education, finance, and sustainability. Each of these topical issues impacts on well-being and has its specific challenges for individuals and governments. What explains individuals’ struggles with adopting and/or maintaining various health behaviors? How can governments stimulate citizens to make healthy or sustainable choices? What is the relation between someone’s financial circumstances and their level of well-being? How can education help to foster people’s wellbeing and their chances in life?

In four courses, students will learn about:

  • the social relations and structural arrangements affecting people’s well-being and their relation with individual level processes;
  • a public administration perspective on how institutions can play a role in promoting well-being by using behavioral insights;
  • individual well-being, including the psychological factors that drive people’s behavior such as motivation, emotion and self-regulation;
  • a critical, integrative perspective on happiness as the ultimate index of well-being, including a discussion of misconceptions about happiness and a critical review of empirical evidence on happiness interventions.

Moreover, students will develop academic skills that are required to work from an interdisciplinary perspective and tackle such big issues as well-being. These skills include debating skills, analyzing literature from an unfamiliar discipline, collaborating in multidisciplinary teams, and communicating scientific insights to relevant stakeholders. This Minor offers an excellent preparation for the Master's programme Social, Health, and Organizational Psychology​, particularly the Health Promotion track.

Minor students will have the opportunity to gain Honours credentials by participating in an extra multidisciplinary assignment.

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Verplicht laten vaccineren is een schijnoplossing​

De meeste vaccin-weigeraars zijn niet principieel of religieus. Vergemakkelijk het vaccineren en het probleem is verholpen, schrijft Denise de Ridder. (NRC, 17 mei 2019).

Benieuwd naar het hele artikel: klik hier.

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Beat The Fly | Call for Nominations
WINK New Fly Award

The Schiphol urinal fly is an iconic nudge ever since Thaler and Sunstein named it in their book Nudge (2008) as a prototypical subtle way to influence behavior without forbidding the alternative option: people seem to understand right away what nudges are about when they have been told about the fly. Unfortunately, the fly is no longer present at the men’s rest rooms at Schiphol and we believe that it is time to highlight other inspiring nudge examples. For that reason, we have installed the WINK New Fly Award that will be presented during the WINK conference in June. The award will be presented in a plenary session at the conference and featured in our mailing and social media communication.

Nominations of max 500 words for the WINK New Fly Award can be sent to the conference secretariat before May 15 if they meet the following criteria: a clear description of what the nudge is about and the target behavior (preferably with a picture of the nudge), where and when it has been used and on behalf of which party, as well as a (preliminary) evaluation of acceptance and effectiveness. Nominations will be considered by the Conference Organizing Committee. Nominations can be made by any party (researchers, government, private parties). Self-nominations are encouraged. You are also encouraged to share the call for nominations on social media.

[read more]

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Bring Your Own – Who would you like to welcome to Utrecht?
Call for Visitors and Events

The IOS-stream Institutions & Behavior aims to connect UU-scholars with an interest in research on the nexus between societal and policy institutions with individual behavior and decision making. We aim to contribute to the quality of public institutions and their policies relating to important contemporary societal issues. We do so from a specific perspective: the combination and integration of behavioral and institutional insights, approaches and knowledge.

In the past few years, we have been able to welcome inspiring and renown academic or policy making visitors to Utrecht, such as Roy Baumeister (University of Queensland), Peter John (UCL London), Anne Greet Keizer (WRR) and Guglielmo Briscese (Behavioral Insights team Australia). There are many more outstanding scholars in our networks with stimulating ideas for UU-scholars from different faculties and departments. We would now like to invite those UU-scholars who are or see themselves as affiliated to the academic purposes of our stream to submit proposals for inviting visitors and related IOS-events.

We thus offer the possibility to host an event and invite an inspiring researcher from Europe for the coming academic year. You can organize a seminar or debate to provide a stage for an academic whose ideas are worth spreading beyond your own discipline. We are looking for research and ideas that transcend the boundaries of one discipline and that tie in with the focus of the stream. The stream provides financial support for travel and accommodation as well as organizational support if needed.

You can contact us for queries and you can submit a two-page motivated proposal by June 7 via email to: k.j.vanderwel@uu.nl. This should include 1) a short resume of the proposed visitor, 2) a short description of the idea of the event, 3) an explication of its relevance in light of the research agenda on institutions and behavior, 4) a reflection on the relevance for scholars from different faculties and departments, and 5) a short and simple budget.

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Een nier verkopen uit armoede is niet de weg om te gaan

Mensen subsidiëren of honoreren om bloed of organen af te staan, bedreigt op lange termijn de solidariteit in de gezondheidszorg. Dat schrijft hoogleraar psychologie Denise de Ridder in de Gedragscolumn (NRC, 5 maart 2019).

Benieuwd naar het hele artikel: klik hier

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New Year’s event

On January 10 the New Year’s event of IOS-stream Behavior & Institutions took place. Over 30 UU-researchers listened to three presentations: (1) on Behavior & Employment by Guglielmo Briscese of the Behavioural Insights Team, (2) on Behavioral Experts in Government by Joram Feitsma and (3) on Prompted Rationality by Denise de Ridder. The event concluded with an invitation to the attendees to share their thoughts on what the IOS-stream Behavior & Institutions can and should do.

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Een vrije keuze voor gezond leven is nu vrijwel onmogelijk

Zolang de burger een veelvoud aan ongezonde opties krijgt voorgeschoteld, gaan een paar extra watertappunten geen verschil maken. Denise de Ridder ergert zich in de Gedragscolumn aan het nationaal preventieakkoord (NRC, 20 december 2018).

Benieuwd naar het hele artikel: klik hier

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Utrecht Leiden Winter School on Interdisciplinary Behavioural & Social Sciences 

February 7-8, 2019

During this two day Winter School, young and talented researchers from several disciplines will be educated and trained in order to strengthen their interdisciplinary research capabilities and to help them to address challenges in inter- and multidisciplinary research. We particularly aim to support the participating researchers in starting and developing specific interdisciplinary research projects. Besides, we hope to develop and strengthen an interdisciplinary mindset amongst the participants in general. 

In order to bring focus to the Winter School, the discussion about the (nonexistence of) free will in inter alia law, philosophy, sociology and psychology etc., will constitute the recurrent substantive theme during the several sessions. For instance, many rules are based on the assumption that people are in control of their behavior. Insights from philosophy and psychology, however, give a less clear cut image and challenge this assumption. That, in turn, raises the question whether, and if yes how the law should be adapted according to such insights. This broad theme of the free will also allow us to address the growing body of scientific knowledge on processes within the human brain, such as emotions, heuristics and biases, and to discuss the mutual meaning of this scientific knowledge for several disciplines and possibly to explore undeveloped areas of interdisciplinary research.

For more information and the programme, click here

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Netspar Grant of €250.000 | Research on decision aids in pension communication

A Netspar grant of 250.000 euros was awarded to researchers from the Behavior and Institutions stream for their research proposal The effectiveness of decision aids in pension communication and the role of literacy. Hans Hoeken, Leo Lentz, Bregje Holleman, Jacqueline Evers-Vermeul and Henk Pander Maat (UiL OTS, Language & Communication group) developed in collaboration with Adriaan Kalwij (Economy) a research project in which they will investigate the effectiveness of decision aids in pension communication for participants of a pension scheme.

Pension Decision Aids (PDAs) are interactive online tools that through a sequence of questions and information guide participants towards making informed pension decisions. In the medical domain, Decision Aids have been found to lead to better decisions (in that these decisions are consistent with the patient’s values), but also to more knowledge, a more accurate risk assessment, and feeling more confident about one’s choice. In this project, we aim to assess to what extent PDAs can have similar positive effects for decisions about pensions. Special attention will be given to tailor the PDAs to the needs of low-literate audiences as these are vulnerable groups for which suboptimal decisions lead to severe consequences after retirement.

Contact for more information: prof. Hans Hoeken (j.a.l.hoeken@uu.nl)

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Gezond leven is geen plicht, maar een gedeelde verantwoordelijkheid

Gezond ‘moeten’ leven als feilbaar mens in een ongezonde samenleving: makkelijk is het niet. In de Gedragscolumn stelt hoogleraar psychologie Denise de Ridder vast dat ‘leefstijlaandoeningen’ niet meer alleen door dokters bestreden kunnen worden (NRC, 10 oktober 2018).

Benieuwd naar het hele artikel: klik hier

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Thomas Schillemans benoemd tot hoogleraar Verantwoording, gedrag en instituties

Met ingang van 1 juli is Thomas Schillemans benoemd tot hoogleraar Verantwoording, gedrag en instituties bij het departement Bestuurs- en Organisatiewetenschap (USBO) van de faculteit Recht, Economie, Bestuur en Organisatie. Thomas Schillemans wil de werking van verantwoording en toezicht in de publieke sector beter begrijpen én kwalitatief verbeteren – met behulp van inzichten en experimenten uit de gedragswetenschap. Zijn leerstoel is bij USBO ondergebracht mede op initiatief van de Nederlandse School voor Openbaar Bestuur en verbonden met het interdisciplinaire onderzoeksthema Institutions for Open Societies van de Universiteit Utrecht.

"Ik doe kennelijk iets wat aanspreekt," zegt Thomas Schillemans. "Ik ben buitengewoon trots op de titel natuurlijk. Maar vervolgens is het echt belangrijk om gewoon invulling aan de leerstoel te geven en je niet te laten afleiden door de leuke associaties van de titel zelf, want het past gewoon bij het soort werk wat we hier doen en dáár gaat het hier om."

Consolideren én innoveren

"Ik ga consolideren én innoveren," aldus de kersverse hoogleraar. "Continueren van het onderzoek naar publieke verantwoording, want daarin zijn wij wereldwijd één van de trendsetters. We gaan ook vernieuwen, door het gebruik van gedragswetenschappelijke methodes en inzichten en experimenten om de werking van het verantwoordingsstelsel beter te begrijpen, onder meer in mijn vidi-project. Een ander deel van de innovatie zit hem in de samenwerking met de Nederlandse School voor Openbaar Bestuur (NSOB), de inbedding in Institutions for Open Societies (IOS) en samenwerking met andere vakgebieden, psychologen, juristen en anderen."

"Bovendien willen we ook impact creëren door de interactie met professionals in de praktijk. Sinds kort ben ik decaan van het NSOB leeratelier toezicht en naleving en hier in Utrecht ben ik actief in een opleiding voor de toezichtssector onder leiding van Judith van Erp. Met collega’s van Rechtsgeleerdheid (o.a. Ivo Giesen) gaan we onderzoeken of we iets dergelijks ook bij rechtbanken kunnen gaan doen; allemaal grote, complexe organisaties met veel beoordelingsrisico’s."

Psychologie in de publieke sector

"Toezichthouders zoals auditors, visitatoren of andere toezichthoudende instanties moeten vaak een oordeel vellen over zaken waar ze maar een beperkt beeld van hebben. Als er in een bepaalde sector iets misgaat, recent nog bij woningcorporaties en in de zorg, en er is sprake van toezicht, dan komt altijd in tweede instantie de vraag waarom de toezichthouder niet heeft opgelet. Hoe kan het dat iets wat al zolang bekend is, toch aan de aandacht ontsnapt is? Deels is dat beeldvorming. Maar er is ook onderzoek dat laat zien dat soms wel 80% van de toezichthouders in sommige sectoren ‘gereserveerd’ is – toezichthouders die, in gewone mensentaal, vrijwel nooit hun mond open doen."

"Onze veronderstelling is dat de condities waaronder je je werk doet, beïnvloeden hoe je je taak uitvoert, en bijvoorbeeld of je verwacht dat dat effect gaat hebben. Zo is de zogenaamde ‘bevestigingsbias’ een cruciaal probleem voor toezichthouders. Als je een vooringenomen beeld hebt, vind je snel bevestiging. Maar we weten ook dat als je de procedure wat verandert, de kans op die bevestigingsbias kleiner is. We gaan, voor een deel op basis van experimenten, proberen te begrijpen wanneer mensen daarin minder fouten maken, en zich serieus inzetten om goed te begrijpen wat er gebeurt."

"Het klinkt als een spannende belofte dat je iets met gedragskennis en psychologie kunt doen in de inrichting van bestuur en beleid. Ik ben er, zoals veel anderen, door geïnspireerd," zegt Schillemans. "Het bewijs dat we er in het onderzoek, onderwijs en executive onderwijs echt iets mee kunnen, moet echter nog worden geleverd. Er zit ongetwijfeld veel kaf tussen het koren – dat een beetje helpen scheiden, dat zou ik de komende jaren graag doen. Wat heb je er nou echt aan, welke inzichten levert het nou echt op en wat werkt er juist niet? Daarmee kunnen we hopelijk echt een bijdrage leveren aan het beter inrichten van de publieke sector, en toezichthouders en organisaties helpen beter te functioneren."

Wilt u meer weten over Thomas Schillemans, kijk dan op zijn persoonlijke pagina.

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Making Accountability Work!

Accountability is omnipresent and pervasive in the public sector. Public organizations are faced with a multitude of rules and expectations from various accountability forums, ranging from central government to audit institutions, regulatory agencies and, not in the least, pressures from (social) media and interest groups. Accountability can be a major source of despair and frustration. But accountability can also be effective and help organizations focus on what really counts. One key question is: when does accountability help managers in public organizations focus and perform?

The international workshop brought together an international research consortium with scholars from universities in Aarhus (Den), Bergen (No), Canberra (Aus), Gothenburg (Swe), Lausanne (Sui), Sheffield (UK) and Utrecht to discuss this question. A major finding was that the managers’ felt accountability – does (s)he expect accountability and does (s)he experience this as legitimate and expertise-based – is key to our understanding (see also here).

The relevance for policy makers were then discussed with representatives from various important policy making bodies, including the OECD, the Scientific Council for Government Policy, the Courts of audit from the Netherlands and the UK, the Swedish Trust-Reform, the UK Cabinet Office and various other governmental and public institutions. An important and stimulating finding was that stakeholder orientation towards citizens and hierarchical accountability towards government is not a zero sum game but can in fact reinforce each other.

The workshop is part of the vidi-project Calibrating Public Accountability and embedded in the IOS-stream Behavior and Institutions and was organized in collaboration with Matt Wood from the University of Sheffield

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Policy & Politics: The rise of the nudge expert

Joram Feitsma

In today’s popular debate about democratic governance, it is sometimes said that we are entering a new era of ‘post-truth’. In North-America, the Trump administration has introduced the idea of ‘alternative facts’, automatically putting the validity of the ‘normal’ facts at stake. Also, in the United Kingdom, the Brexit campaign revealed a thriving opposition towards ‘the experts’ and their scientific knowledge. One might expect that the dawning of post-truth times should be of great concern to policymakers. After all, science and expertise are cornerstones of their work. It is what shapes their thinking and what provides them with legitimacy. So what would it mean for them when the once guaranteed authority of science starts to crumble?

Interested in the whole article? Click here

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Terugkeer van Roseanne laat de blijvende verwarring over Trumps verkiezing zien

De succesvolle terugkeer van Roseanne op de Amerikaanse tv blijkt een gemiste kans om het verdeelde land met zichzelf te verzoenen. Denise de Ridder kijkt om zich heen, in Trump country, voor de Gedragscolumn (NRC, 3 april 2018).

Benieuwd naar het hele artikel? Klik hier

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De juridische ‘angle’ aan het ‘doenvermogen’ van de WRR

In het in april 2017 gelanceerde rapport Weten is nog geen doen. Een realistisch perspectief op redzaamheid is door de WRR betoogd dat naast het ‘denkvermogen’ van de burger in de huidige participatiesamenleving ook de nodige aandacht zou moeten worden besteed aan diens ‘doenvermogen‘. De overheid rekent er immers op dat de participerende burger zelfredzaam is als het gaat om bijvoorbeeld gezondheid, arbeidsmarktperspectieven en financiën. Kortom, dat de burger in staat is om te doen wat nodig is.

Benieuwd naar het hele artikel? Klik hier

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Per 1 maart 2018 is Lars Tummers benoemd tot hoogleraar Bestuurs- en Organisatiewetenschap, in het bijzonder Publiek Management en Gedrag.

Lars Tummers benoemd tot hoogleraar Publiek Management en Gedrag

Lars Tummers is een van de initiatiefnemers van de gedragsbestuurskunde, een nieuw interdisciplinair vakgebied dat inzichten uit de gedragswetenschappen en de bestuurskunde combineert om maatschappelijke vragen te analyseren en op te lossen. Lars Tummers is nu een van de eerste hoogleraren op dit nieuwe vakgebied.

Naast het nationaal en internationaal vormgeven van onderzoek op het gebied van publiek management en gedrag, en verbonden aan het onderzoeksthema Instituties voor Open Samenlevingen en het focusgebied ‘Professional Performance’ van de Universiteit Utrecht, zal Tummers jonge onderzoekers gaan begeleiden en stimuleren. Als lid van de Utrecht Young Academy en als begeleider van promovendi is hij daar op dit moment al actief in. Bovendien zal hij een initiërende, vormgevende rol vervullen in het onderwijs op het gebied van publiek management en gedrag.

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U.S.E collega's van start met bijstandsexperiment samen met gemeente Utrecht

In opdracht van de gemeente Utrecht gaan U.S.E. wetenschappers van start met een onderzoek naar een betere aanpak in de bijstand. Het grootschalige wetenschappelijk onderzoek vindt plaats van juni 2018 tot oktober 2019.

Wethouder Victor Everhardt: “De huidige regels in de bijstand zijn ingewikkeld en streng. Utrecht wil weten of het ook anders kan. Dat gaan we in de praktijk uitproberen, samen met een groep van 900 bijstandsgerechtigden.”  Het onderzoek heet ‘Weten wat werkt’.

 

Het onderzoek wordt uitgevoerd door:

- prof. dr. Stephanie Rosenkranz

- dr. Loek Groot

- Timo Verlaat MSc

- dr. Mark Sanders

Allen verbonden aan Utrecht University School of Economics (U.S.E.).

Vier onderzoeksgroepen

Er komen vier onderzoeksgroepen. De deelnemers aan het onderzoek worden via een loting ingedeeld in een van die groepen. Iedere groep gaat een andere aanpak uitproberen. Na anderhalf jaar kunnen de onderzoekers  conclusies trekken over welke aanpak het beste werkt. Hoofdonderzoekers prof. dr. Stephanie Rosenkranz en dr. Loek Groot: “We onderzoeken de verschillende effecten die een andere aanpak op bijstandsgerechtigden kan hebben. We kijken of mensen sneller uitstromen naar werk, maar ook naar het effect op hun gezondheid, op eventuele schulden en of mensen meer of minder tevreden zijn over hun eigen situatie.”

Werving deelnemers

Vanaf deze week start de werving van 900 deelnemers voor het onderzoek. Er komen informatiebijeenkomsten in de wijken en er is een speciaal spreekuur op het Stadskantoor. Bijstandsgerechtigden die mee kunnen doen, ontvangen hierover een brief.

De vier onderzoeksgroepen zijn:

1. Zelf in actie.  In deze groep bepalen bijstandsgerechtigden zelf hoe ze op zoek gaan naar werk, vrijwilligerswerk of andere activiteiten. Ze hoeven niet verplicht te solliciteren of verplicht deel te nemen aan andere activiteiten van de gemeente.

2. Met extra hulp in actie. De deelnemers in deze groep krijgen extra hulp en begeleiding van de gemeente.

3. Werken loont. Bijstandsgerechtigden die werken naast hun uitkering, mogen in deze groep meer zelf houden van het geld dat ze verdienen.

4. Meten wat werkt. De regels in deze groep veranderen niet, zodat de resultaten in de andere groepen vergeleken kunnen worden met de huidige situatie.

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Experimental Design Seminar | Utrecht University

Purpose

The primary goal of the seminar is to offer researchers at UU the opportunity to get multidisciplinary feedback on their design beforeconducting an experiment. To this end, the seminar brings together researchers from the departments of Psychology, Sociology, Governance, Law, and Economics. The seminar is also connected to the Institutions and Behavior unit of UU.

Guidelines

- Any researcher affiliated with UU interested in proposing an experimental design in the seminar only needs to fill in the EDS Proposal Meeting Request form and send it to eds.utrechtuniversity@gmail.com.

- The seminar committee will take care of all the logistics (reserving a room, sending the email invitations, etc.).

- The location will be at one of the departments and chosen in agreement with the presenter.

- If there is a specific researcher(s) that the presenter would like to have in the audience, the presenter can indicate that preference to the EDS Committee. We will then pass that information to the desired person(s).

- Each design proposal will last 45 minutes. Ideally, the presenter should allocate 30 minutes to propose the design and 15 minutes to receive feedback.

EDS Committee

Joyce Delnoij (Sociology) | Diogo Geraldes (U.S.E.) | Stephanie Rosenkranz (U.S.E.) | Janina Steinmetz (Psychology)

More information? See the EDS website

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What? Talk by & discussion with Peter Loewen (University of Toronto) When? Friday 16 March 2018 from 16.00 onwards, followed by drinks! Where? USBO, room 2.06

Nonrepresentative Representatives: An Experimental Study of the Decision Making of Elected Politicians

You are warmly invited for a talk by & discussion with Peter Loewen, Associate professor of Political Science and Director of the School of Public Policy and Governance at the University of Toronto.

Peter Loewen will come to the USBO to talk about his co-authored article on elected politicians’ decision making that appeared recently in the top-journal in Political Science: the American Political Science Review, and about the broader research program in which this study took place (you can find the article here). Peter Loewen’s research program is academically and societally highly relevant (see here for another recent example of his work) and path-breaking.

He and his co-authors were among the first to conduct experiments with politicians from multiple countries as participants so as to study their information processing and decision making directly and systematically. Their finding that politicians were as likely, or even more likely, to display well-known choice anomalies – such as escalating commitment in the face of sunk costs and being subject to framing effects – has important implications for among other things the quality of decision making, responsiveness and accountability.

Hereby, Peter Loewen’s research program ties in perfectly with the new UU IOS-stream ‘Behavior, Public Policy and Administration’ and behavioral public administration and political science more specifically. 

For more information, please contact Barbara Vis (b.vis@uu.nl), also on behalf of Thomas Schillemans.

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Panel discussion on the WRR-report: ‘Weten is nog geen doen’

On January 25, 2018, the stream Behaviour, Public Policy & Administration hosted a successful panel discussion on this new WRR report.

The report argues that modern society places high demands on citizens’ self-reliance in crucial life domains like health, personal finance, and the labour market. Many people fail to live up to these high expectations, not because they lack thinking capacity, but because they lack doing capacity, the capacity to make plans, act, be persistent, and cope with setbacks. 

Very relevant for policymakers is also the conclusion drawn in the report, based on current scientific insight, that the possibility to train one’s doing capacity is limited. Therefore, policymakers may be better advised to submit new policies and bills to a doenvermogentoets, a test of whether they realistically fit people’s doing capacity.

According to project coordinator Anne-Greet Keizer, who opened the event, the report has landed well with Ministries, local bodies, and professionals. By now, the report has been downloaded 7000 times. Moreover, the Dutch parliament responded in a positive way to the report. They support its general advice to take behavioural perspectives into account when developing laws and regulations – even more than is currently the case.

During the panel discussion, academics from four different disciplines—Hans Hoeken (Linguistics), Thomas Schillemans (Governance), Ivo Giesen (Law), and Denise de Ridder (Psychology)—reflected on the desirability and potential of the doenvermogentoets. This was followed by a lively discussion with the audience. A recurrent theme was whether policies should or should not provide citizens with more freedom of choice.  

The WRR hopes that policy coalitions are formed with a stronger focus on citizens’ doing capacity. Furthermore, it openly encourages plagiarism: those interested in using the report as a background for new projects, workshops or lectures are warmly invited to do so.

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Ontgroening mag geen ticket zijn voor de maatschappelijke top

Misschien nog wel kwalijker dan de cultuur van vernedering en intimidatie bij de ontgroening is de handigheid om daarmee weg te komen. Dat schrijft hoogleraar psychologie Denise de Ridder in de Gedragscolumn (NRC, 24 januari 2018).

Benieuwd naar het hele artikel? Klik hier

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Niek Verlaan genomineerd voor de titel Jonge Ambtenaar van het Jaar 2018

De shortlist van tien kandidaten die in de race zijn voor de titel Jonge Ambtenaar van het Jaar 2018 is bekend. De tien namen zijn bekend gemaakt door FUTUR op 25 oktober tijdens het Reuring!Café van de Vereniging van Overheidsmanagement (VOM).

Niek Verlaan (32), Affiliate member van de stream Behavior, Public Policy & Administration, is Beleidsadviseur Volksgezondheid en Projectmanager Mobiliteit bij de gemeente Utrecht. Het is slechts toeval dat je een passende oplossing verzint wanneer je de doelgroep niet betrekt, aldus Niek. Om verandering te krijgen is het belangrijk om te weten waarom mensen doen wat ze doen en hoe kan je daar nou beter achter komen door ze te betrekken? Met technieken als nudging en andere gedragstechnieken helpt hij collega’s om op nieuwe manieren de doelgroep te bereiken. Niek heeft een Nudge Netwerk opgezet gericht op kennisdeling zowel binnen de gemeente Utrecht als landelijk.

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Onafhankelijk onderzoek is meer dan de conclusies niet herschrijven

Ook buiten het WODC hebben wetenschappers te maken met ongeduldige opdrachtgevers die snelle oplossingen eisen. Wie daar naar op zoek is, kan beter consultancy inhuren, schrijft Denise de Ridder in de Gedragscolumn (NRC, 12 december 2017).

Benieuwd naar het hele artikel? Klik hier

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Een slecht excuus is een poging om onder de regels uit te komen

Een goed excuus is een getuigenis dat je de regels erkent en je best zal doen om je leven te beteren. Denise de Ridder in de gedragscolumn over de #MeToo kwestie (NRC, 14 november 2017).

Benieuwd naar het hele artikel: klik hier

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PhD-day Behaviour, Public Policy Administration

On November 27th, the first PhD Day for Behavioral Researchers took place at the Utrecht University Hall. PhD researchers from the departments of law, sociology, psychology, governance and economics came together to get to know each other and exchange ideas. The day was divided in three parts aimed at gaining insights on what behavioral research is being done at the university, how PhDs can improve their outcomes and also networking with fellow behavioral researchers.  

Among the topics discussed in the first part of the event were tips on time management, the challenges of conducting interdisciplinary research, the best ways to get an (interdisciplinary) paper published, and ideas that might help to work on research projects (more) efficiently.

During the second part of the day, we split up in groups to work on two real cases. The first concerned excessive noise caused by a bar situated in a residential area of Utrecht; the second case was regarding the use of smartphones in traffic. Together, we came up with solutions and policy proposals inspired by behavioral insights.

We ended the day with drinks, where we kept discussing the interesting topics that came out through out the day.

Overall, the PhD day for behavioral researchers gave us the opportunity to meet researchers from different academic backgrounds. Hopefully, this will lead to many more inspiring meetings and future collaboration.

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A successful workshop with exciting insights from ethnographic research on Behavioral insight teams in Australia and the Netherlands

How can we apply behavioural insights in public policy?

Governments around the world are experimenting with the use of behavioural science in policymaking. Governments have installed ambitious Behavioural Insights Teams (BITs) aiming to improve public policies. Much remains unknown about these BITs: How can we explain their global spread? What do they actually do? What challenges do they face? What strategies do they employ to ‘make it work’ amidst everyday complexity and ambiguity? Sarah Ball (University of Queensland) and Joram Feitsma (Utrecht university School of Governance) presented the latest insights. The findings were discussed with representatives from the municipality of Utrecht, the universities of Utrecht and Antwerp and the Council for Public Administration, an advisory body to the Dutch government.

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With Roy Baumeister, Lars Tummers, Denise de Ridder & Joel Anderson. Launch of Utrecht University Institutions Stream Behaviour, Public Policy and Administration

What good are psychological insights for public policy?

Friday the 19th of May 2017, signed the official launch of the new Center for Advanced Studies in Behavior, Public Policy & Administration at Utrecht University, closely linked to the strategic theme Institutions for Open Societies. Key speaker was no less than the acclaimed professor Roy Baumeister, one of the world’s most prolific and influential psychologists. Topic of discussion: “What good are psychological insights for public policy and administration?”. Along dr. Lars Tummers, dr. Joel Anderson, and professor Denise de Ridder in the invaluable role of discussant, participating representatives ranged from the The Netherlands Scientific Council for Government Policy (with a recent report on psychology and public policy), policy advisors from the municipality of Utrecht and Rotterdam, and Utrecht University academics from the faculties Humanities, Social and Behavioural Sciences, and Law, Economics and Governance.

Chairing the meeting, dr. Thomas Schillemans (Utrecht School of Governance) sketches the envisioned contours of a network consisting of scholars, practitioners and other societal stakeholders. Ambitions are grand as the centre will work to develop sound policy advice, develop educational opportunities and strengthen research around societal issues by combining insights from psychology, public administration, and other related field. Finally, the day marks the start of a tradition to invite tantalising honorary guests with whom to exchange views, an ambition of which the first example will be walking in shortly.

When the floor opens for discussion reception is constructively critical, as is becoming to a crowd of knowledgeable representatives from both our university and beyond. Some academic voices note potential difficulties and opportunities concerning finance, methods, and education. Societal stakeholders rightfully reiterate the importance of societal relevance; a point shared by the representatives. Let it be clear, the application of scientific knowledge for citizens and society is pivotal. During this lively discussion, our honourable guest enters almost unnoticed: Professor Roy Baumeister a static academic, with a magnificent tie, a warm voice and an amazing smile that affords some comparison to a movie star. Luckily, a short break allows for proper reception as more visitors start filling up the room.

Giving us the proper introductions Thomas Schillemans resumes the programme sketching Baumeister’s background at the University of Florida paired with a humbling array of publication details and academic awards. Clearly we are dealing with an academic heavyweight. Discussant dr. Lars Tummers (Utrecht School of Governance) takes the stage to open the panel discussion. Taking a wide angle, Tummers asks the audience to name a Nobel laureate that already dealt with the topics at hand. After several allusions to Daniel Kahneman, who was prominently present in spirit during the event, Herbert A. Simon is mentioned. A laureate who called for a connection between public administration and psychology as early as 1947, yet would be disappointed with the state of the art today. Using this example to restress the opportunities of using psychological insights in public policy and administration, Tummers also issues a warning. Appropriations of psychological insights require care seen as the context of public administration often proves unruly.

After this piece of advice, dr. Joel Anderson (Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies) invites Baumeister to reflect on the potential opportunities of using psychological insights in policy. In particular, Anderson mentions matters of citizen autonomy, self-indulgence culture, and helping people prepare for important decisions. Hereafter, Professor Denise de Ridder (Department of Psychology) proceeds by mentioning the dangers of manipulation whilst emphasizing the opportunities provided to help people. She notes the rational model of human decision-making is still dominant with many practitioners; a fact that not only offers opportunities but is also in demand of change.

Starting with a reflection on what behavioural sciences, and notably psychology, can do for public administration and policy, Baumeister offers the potential idea of using psychology as a lingua franca, or common language, in the translation of insights from broader behavioural sciences to policies. He then proceeds to illustrate this potential beautifully by connecting not only to public administration in addressing the raised issues, but skilfully and without apparent effort weaving in insights from criminology, biology, pedagogics, law, media and communication.

An engaging discussion follows of which an exhaustive report is sadly impossible. Proving unfearful of controversies Baumeister explicitly directs attention towards the important potential danger of progressive liberal political bias in science. Problematic academically, this is notably so when such insights are inconsiderately applied in policies. Secondly, he cautions scientists to work with visions of how thing ‘ought to be’, as he considers this slowing him down in the quest for knowledge. Then noteworthy point of discussion regards the recognition of the relevance of Baumeisters work on willpower and ego depletion to inform public policy. Policymakers often design policy for people in their optimal state of decision-making. They thereby disregards the many times people are not in full command of their rational capacity. In this light, he offered the suggestion to design policy as to “allow people to fluctuate in willpower”, which aligns with the mentioned report on psychology and public policy mentioned above. Another lively discussion worth mentioning concerned ethical implications of using psychological insights for policy and focussed specifically the now popular idea of nudging. This in many ways mirrored broader debates held within contemporary academic and societal discourses on the topic. Concerns returned about manipulation, which were extended with apprehensions about integrating nudge instruments in existing legal frameworks. Counterarguments involved the omnipresence of steering choices in daily life and the notion that some of the problematized characteristics of nudge are inherent to policymaking.

With the day coming to an end the ambition exchanging insights and views between academia and practice is a considerable step closer. If anything, the days discussions clarified that development of a Center for Advanced Studies in Behavior, Public Policy & Administration is timely and relevant.

 

Text by:

Maurits Jesse van Leeuwen (PhD-Candidate Utrecht School of Governance)

Gratefully supported by:

Franziska Heinicke (PhD-Candidate Utrecht School of Economics)

Bora Lancee  (PhD-Candidate Utrecht School of Economics)

Rosanna Nagtegaal (PhD-Candidate Utrecht School of Governance)

Photography by Rosanna Nagtegaal

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Out now: A virtual issue on behavioral public administration in JPART, the premier academic journal in the field, edited by Tummers and Grimmelikhuijsen (with Olsen and Jilke). 

Grimmelikhuijsen, S., Jilke, S., Olsen, A. L., & Tummers, L. (2017). Behavioral public administration: Combining insights from public administration and psychology. Public Administration Review, 77(1), 45-56.

 

  • The aim of this article is to deepen the dialogue between public administration and psychology by outlining a distinct approach in public administration that integrates the two fields of study: behavioral public administration.
  • Behavioral public administration can be beneficial for practitioners as it aims to bring psychological insights into the practice of public administration.
  • In addition, behavioral public administration can be beneficial for practitioners as it brings public administration insights into debates dominated by psychologists or behavioral scientists. For instance, scholars have used public administration theories to critique the nudge movement in government. Such endeavors are valuable as these do not take psychology at face value but explicitly connect it with theory and practice within public administration.

Click here for this article.

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WINK | The Nudge Conference

June 23-24, 2018

The two day conference aims to showcase the latest insights in nudging theory, policy and practice by combining input from academia, professionals, and policy makers. We practice an interactive format with many opportunities for exchange of ideas in symposia, workshops and debate on important nudge-related themes from various disciplines such as psychology, policy science, ethics, behavioral economics and law.

The program hosts invited workshops on Nudging Ethics, Nudging in Policy Science, Nudge Design, Nudge and the Law (and many more), as well as several themed open symposia on nudging in public health, social behavior and safety, sustainable behavior, education, and financial decision making.

For more information: WINK | The Nudge Conference

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Onafhankelijk onderzoek is meer dan de conclusies niet herschrijven

Ook buiten het WODC hebben wetenschappers te maken met ongeduldige opdrachtgevers die snelle oplossingen eisen. Wie daar naar op zoek is, kan beter consultancy inhuren, schrijft Denise de Ridder in de Gedragscolumn (NRC, 12 december 2017)

Benieuwd naar het hele artikel? Klik hier

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Behavioural Insights and Public Policy | Implementing Trials with Bureaucracies with Peter John, University College London

November 9, 2017

Traditional boundaries between academic disciplines are fading. More macro oriented academic disciplines (such as law and public administration) are finding – and experimenting with – ways to integrate methods, theories and findings from behavioral sciences. Governments around the globe are experimenting with behaviorally informed policies. Some governments, most notably the UK and the US but also the Netherlands, have installed ambitious Behavioral Insights Teams aiming to improve public policies. Governments for instance use behavioral insights to increase tax-returns, improve organ-donations, cope with unruly crowds in public spaces and to stimulate people to eat healthier foods. 

This workshop addresses the questions how and when governments can use behavioral insights and trials in their policies on the basis of emerging new evidence and practices. 

Professor Peter John will speak about trials in government on the basis of pioneering experience in the UK. Peter John will discuss his approach to designing trials with public agencies, using his ten-step guide to trial design. He argues that practical constraints govern what kinds of question can be asked and structure the knowledge gathering process. He gives examples of trial design using behavioral insights working with public agencies in the UK.

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