Brain Game: Why social policy needs more than the behavioural economics bandwagon

Mark Francas

Behavioural economics insights can help break through the final barriers to behaviour change – but policymakers who believe they have found a "magic bullet" solution may risk disappointment.

For policymakers, trying to change human behaviour the old-fashioned way is expensive, risky, and fraught with failure.

Launching wide-reaching education programmes, and canvassing support for new laws or fiscal policy; altering financial incentives in favour of new behaviour and trying to convince populations of the rational reasons for acting that way: all are costly, potentially controversial and come with uncertain outcomes. High-profile campaigns that fail to meet well-publicised targets whilst stirring public resentment in the process are rarely a preferred option for governments.