Today, nearly 200 randomized control trials later and with their findings permeating virtually all areas of public policy, the creation of the BIT and the wedding of behavioral science and public policy might seem like forgone conclusions.
Some of society’s stickiest problems aren’t a failure of intention, importance, or value. They’re the result of a failure to understand human behavior at the last mile—the final stage where desires and plans must turn into action.
No matter who you are, whether you are selling soap or shampoo, whether you are a government looking after the welfare of citizens, or an agency promoting financial well-being and better health, or an institution that is responsible for collecting taxes, you are in the business of changing people’s behavior.
On Tuesday President Barack Obama issued an executive order formally establishing the White House Social and Behavioral Sciences Team while also directing federal agencies to examine how they can use behavioral science to improve outcomes for citizens across the United States.
The field mistakenly called “behavioral economics” (mistakenly because what it is is psychology applied to domains that are the normal province of economists) has taken the intellectual and political world by storm.