Questioning Behaviour

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June 1, 2020  

Ep 7. The (Ab)use of Behavioural Science in Public Policy (ft. Ganna Pogrebna)

June 1, 2020

Sarah Bowen and Merle van den Akker interview Ganna Pogrebna on how behavioural science is applied to public policy, for better or for worse.

Ganna Pogrebna is a Professor of Behavioural Economics and Data Science at the University of Birmingham and Lead for Behavioural Data Science at the Alan Turing Institute. She blends behavioural science, AI, computer science, data analytics, engineering, and business model innovation to help people and companies better understand their decision-making process.

In this episode, we discuss both the success and the horror stories that come from applying behavioural science to public policy. Ganna shares with us 7 reasons that can explain why behavioural science does not always translate into successful public policy: (1) Expertise (2) Context (3) The “Breaking Bad” problem (4) Methods (5) Interpretation (6) Incentive mechanisms (7) Data.

Finding Ganna Pogrebna:

Youtube (Data-driven):





***DISCLAIMER (added 07/06/2020)***

We are aware the BIT did not propose behavioural fatigue to the UK government as a reason to delay lockdown measures in response to COVID-19. It is unclear where the recommendation originated from:

 "Unfortunately, both the intended meaning of “behavioural fatigue” and its precise role in the U.K.’s science-based approach remain vague because information about it seems only to have been disseminated through media interviews of government sources and officials involved in the policy process (see Bloomberg, March 11, 2020; The Guardian, March 12, 2020; The Guardian, March 13, 2020; and The Guardian, March 13, 2020)."



Links mentioned:

The behavioural science of the smoking ban:

The “No Need to Fly” campaign in Germany:

Behavioural fatigue in the pandemic:

Karen Chester speech on “weapons of mass influence”:

Cambridge Analytica – Alexander Kogan:

A great example of a backfiring intervention - Gneezy & Rustichini (2000) “A fine is a price”:

Jamie Oliver healthy eating campaign:

Nudging FORGOOD framework:


Secret link:


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Music: Derek Clegg “You’re the Dummy”