The Centre for Central Banking Studies recently hosted their annual Chief Economists Workshop, whose theme was “What can policymakers learn from other disciplines”. In this guest post, one of the keynote speakers at the event, David Halpern, CEO of the Behavioural Insights Team, argues that insights from behaviour science can improve the design and effectiveness of economic policy interventions.
Behaviour science has had major impacts on policy in recent years. Introducing a more realistic model of human behaviour – to replace the ‘rational’ utility-maximizer – has enabled policymakers to boost savings; increase tax payments; encourage healthier choices; reduce energy consumption; boost educational attendance; reduce crime; and increase charitable giving. But there remain important areas where its potential has yet to be realised, including macroeconomic policy and large areas of regulatory practice. Businesses, consumers, and even regulators are subject to similar systematic biases to other humans. These include overconfidence; being overly influenced by what others are doing; and being influenced by irrelevant information. The good news is that behavioural science offers the prospect of helping regulators address some of their most pressing issues. This includes: anticipating and addressing ‘animal spirits’ that drive bubbles or sentiment-driven slowdowns; reducing corrupt market practices; and encouraging financial products that are comprehensible to humans.