US government empowers behavioural Nudge Team

The Office of Science and Technology Policy at the White House gets fresh support from a new Senior Policy Advisor, Dr Maya Shankar. Her goal will be to help bring more insights from behavioural science research into policy making in the USA through the executive branch. Moreover, Dr Shankar will support the process of recruiting behavioural scientists to place them within several government agencies.

The United Kingdom and its Behavioural Insights Team (BIT) - the "nudge unit" - serve as a role model for successful behavioural policy implementation in many areas. The UK could demonstrate that insights from the social and behavioural sciences can be used to help design public policies that work better, cost less, and help people to achieve their goals. Since 2010, when UK Prime Minister David Cameron commissioned the BIT, several policy interventions were tested and identified that will further advance priorities of the British government, while saving the government an estimated £1 billion within the next five years. Very fruitful in the UK were for example the adoption of energy efficiency measures. Here the clue was to offer an attic-clearance service - at full cost, as it was known that the messy attic was hindering people to start energy efficient measures like attic insulation. The policy led people to a five-fold increase in their subsequent adoption of attic-insulation. Interestingly, providing additional government subsidies on attic insulation services had no such effect.

By help of Dr Maya Shankar, the US federal government is currently creating a new team that will help build federal capacity to experiment with these approaches. So far over a dozen federal departments and agencies are involved on newly-designed behavioural insight projects, including the Department of Labour, Department of Health and Human Services, Department of Education, Veterans Administration, Department of Treasury, Social Security Administration, Department of Housing and Urban Development, and the United States Department of Agriculture.


More information:

UK Behavioural Insights Team (BIT) and