The challenges of behavioural insights for effective policy design

Colin Raico Kuehnhanss

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

8 Citations (Scopus)


Behavioural insights are becoming increasingly popular with policy practitioners. Findings and methods originally provided by cognitive psychology and later behavioural economics have found use in the formulation of public policies. Their most popularised application has emerged under the auspices of libertarian paternalism in the form of ‘nudging’. Its proponents claim to provide a new instrument to facilitate the formulation of effective and evidence-based policy, taking people’s actual behaviour into account from the outset, while preserving their liberty to choose. This article reviews the origins of libertarian paternalism and the behavioural insights it builds on and takes a critical look at the foundations nudging relies on as a policy tool. It also discusses the ongoing efforts to build policy capacity to integrate behavioural insights and experimental methods in the creation of public policy. Behavioural insights offer a powerful tool to reshape and design new evidence-based policy. However, designers ought to be aware of the underlying assumptions on individual behaviour, the broadness of the mandate the nudging approach claims and the challenges they pose for design effectiveness.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)14-40
Number of pages27
JournalPolicy and Society
Issue number1
Early online date22 Sep 2018
Publication statusPublished - 5 Apr 2019


  • Libertarian paternalism
  • behavioural economics
  • heuristics and biases
  • nudging
  • policy effectiveness

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