The use of knowledge from behavioral economics and psychology in creating better and targeted public policies


Skenderija 1, 71000 Sarajevo

The latest trends of using behavioral economics and psychology in the development of public policies were presented at the event organised by Analitika on 29 September 2016, within the National Policy Dialogue of the Regional Research and Promotion Programme (RRPP) in the Western Balkans.

A growing number of governments rely on the findings of behavioral economics and psychology in order to encourage desirable behaviour in society and develop policies adapted to the real needs and habits of their citizens. Among them is the United Kingdom, whose government and various public institutions have for years developed specialised teams for the application of behavioral insights in developing and implementing public policies. 

Dr Merima Maja Brkić, Head of Behavioral and Customer Insights Team and Deputy Director of Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs, presented the latest trends, achievements, experience and practices in the use of behavioral insights in everyday work.

The approach is based on a few assumptions. Firstly, people do not behave rationally. For example, they drive fast, although they are aware that they endanger their and other people’s lives, or they litter, knowing that they are causing environmental damage by doing so.  Secondly, everyday behaviour is influenced by instincts, mental shortcuts and previous experience. In addition, people tend to make decisions quickly and unconsciously, thinking almost automatically, especially in situations which are not important, and when they do not have time to think rationally. The role of behavioral economics is to influence the behavioral change by changing the way choices are presented, or by changing the environment in which decisions are made.

Dr Brkić says that this approach does not have to be expensive; on the contrary, it can be very simple and can result in significant savings.  Sometimes it is enough to change only one word, or one step in the standardised procedure, and achieve the desired change with existing resources. The benefits of this approach are as follows:

  •  low-cost approach, implementation does not have to be expensive;
  • high impact on a behaviour; based  on effective, evidence-based practices;
  • effective in policymaking.

Around 35 representatives of public institutions, international organisations, research institutes and organisations, as well as experts in the field of psychology and economics participated in the event, which was organised with the support of the Regional Research Promotion Programme (RRPP) in the Western Balkans. 

The RRPP is coordinated and operated by the Interfaculty Institute for Central and Eastern Europe (IICEE) at the University of Fribourg (Switzerland). The programme is fully funded by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), Federal Department of Foreign Affairs.

Themes: Participatory Decision MakingInstitucionalno komuniciranjePolicy Analysis