Calling time on binge drinking: Behavioural economics uncovers the hidden influences behind binge drinking

Orlando Wood, Alain Samson, Peter Harrison and Alex Batchelor


Traditional economists would have us believe that people are rational, utility-maximising, cost-minimising and socially isolated individuals with stable preferences. This view also pervades market research and our practices, but is being challenged by a relatively new field in the social sciences, known as Behavioural Economics (BE). Influenced by BE and related psychological theories, this paper provides a new behavioural model that identifies some of the influences on our behaviour that the research industry regularly overlooks. It shows how ideas from the behavioural sciences have been used to develop a new mass ethnographic approach — The Behavioural Detectives — and describes how this might be applied to understand the factors that lead to irresponsible drinking in the UK.