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What do heuristics have to do with policymaking?


  • Shabnam Mousavi

    () (Johns Hopkins University and Max Planck Institute for Human Development)


In an era where behavioral insights overwhelmingly shape policy interventions, heuristic-based decision-making merits closer consideration. That policy environments are complex is not a new topic, nor is the insight that simple heuristic solutions might work best in some complex situations. I move beyond the more common interpretations of heuristics, defined in terms of cognitive biases, to a research program focused on a systematic study of fast-and-frugal heuristics as effective decision tools. I suggest that this approach to heuristics provides a coherent framework for understanding why and how interventions based on behavioral insights work, which in turn can aid policymakers and their advisors on "What Works"**. I draw on nudge-based policies and Behavioral Insights Team report to illustrate my point. **What Works is a network of centers that designs and implements interventions based on a mixture of tools for effective policymaking that includes bans, mandates, and incentives in addition to behavioral-based methods -headed since 2013 by David Halpern in the UK. I refer here to both this institution and the literal meaning of the phrase.

Suggested Citation

  • Shabnam Mousavi, 2018. "What do heuristics have to do with policymaking?," Journal of Behavioral Economics for Policy, Society for the Advancement of Behavioral Economics (SABE), vol. 2(1), pages 69-74, March.
  • Handle: RePEc:beh:jbepv1:v:2:y:2018:i:1:p:69-74

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    heuristics; policy interventions; behavioral insights; complexity;

    JEL classification:

    • D01 - Microeconomics - - General - - - Microeconomic Behavior: Underlying Principles
    • D03 - Microeconomics - - General - - - Behavioral Microeconomics: Underlying Principles
    • D04 - Microeconomics - - General - - - Microeconomic Policy: Formulation; Implementation; Evaluation
    • D91 - Microeconomics - - Micro-Based Behavioral Economics - - - Role and Effects of Psychological, Emotional, Social, and Cognitive Factors on Decision Making


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