General Information

The workshop "Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Behavioural Public Policy" is an initiative of a group of economists and psychologists from the Université Nice Sophia Antipolis, working on the efficiency and acceptability of nudges. It will be held at the Maison des Sciences de l’Homme et de la Société Sud-Est in Nice, France, on May 20-21, 2019.

The objective of the workshop is to gather economists, psychologists, and philosophers to discuss the growing place of ‘behavioural sciences’ in the design of public policies. The event will provide an opportunity for young scholars to present their works and to get feedback from senior scholars expert in the field.

The workshop is also part of the projects of the 'Behavior and Society' working group of the Young Scholars Initiatives.


Scientific Background

Since the publication of Nudge by Cass Sunstein and Richard Thaler in 2008, a growing number of governments and international organisations see in behavioural sciences a new way to design public policies. This evolution gave birth to the Behavioural Insights Team in the United Kingdom in 2010, followed by the creation of similar ‘nudge units’ in Australia, the United States, Canada, India, Singapore, among others, as well as within the World Bank, the OECD, and some UN agencies.

A ‘nudge’ consists in the intervention of a public or private actor aiming at influencing the behaviour of another individual, without however constraining her choice, by exploiting the diverse decision biases and heuristics that guide most of individuals' decisions. Nudges present two significant advantages compared to other, more traditional, policy tools:  (i) their low cost (Benartzi et al (2017) for instance suggest that nudges can be up to 400 times more efficient than traditional financial incentives – when we compare the cost of an intervention to the behavioural impact induced by this intervention), and (ii) their non-coercive dimension.

The emergence of such ‘behavioural public policies’ raise serious political and ethical issues. We can indeed wonder whether such interventions would remain efficient once they are publicly disclosed (as suggested by Bang et al 2018). An obvious problem with this kind of policy is a potential trade-off between the efficiency of the measure and the enlightened consent of the citizens who are exposed to the intervention.
Combining the perspectives from different disciplines (psychology, economics, philosophy) should offer new insights about the various issues raised by the quasi-generalised political acceptance of behavioural sciences for policy purposes.
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