IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this paper

Behavioural Economics and Policymaking: Learning from the Early Adopters


  • Lunn, Pete


This paper critically examines initial applications of Behavioural Economics (BE) to policymaking. It focuses primarily but not exclusively on what can be learnt from the early adopters of policies inspired by BE, notably America and Britain. BE is defined by its inductive scientific approach to economics, which results in empirical demonstrations that are persuasive to policymakers facing practical problems. The analysis identifies three routes via which BE has influenced policy: (1) the theory of libertarian paternalism ("nudges"), (2) the provision of toolkits for policymakers seeking behavioural change, and (3) the expansion of the skill-set of applied economists (and scientists in related disciplines). The effectiveness of each route is assessed, in terms of the likelihood of successfully integrating scientific advances with policy development. The analysis concludes that route (3) is the only one that can adapt to the ongoing and rapid evolution of what is a young science. Successful policy applications are most likely where there is expert input to policy development and the capacity to engage in applied experimentation and piloting of policy ideas. The implication is that countries, including Ireland, are more likely to reap the benefits of BE if they create an effective interface between applied economists and policymakers.

Suggested Citation

  • Lunn, Pete, 2012. "Behavioural Economics and Policymaking: Learning from the Early Adopters," Papers WP425, Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI).
  • Handle: RePEc:esr:wpaper:wp425

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: no

    Other versions of this item:

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Ernst Fehr & Klaus M. Schmidt, 1999. "A Theory of Fairness, Competition, and Cooperation," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 114(3), pages 817-868.
    2. Lunn, Pete, 2012. "Can Policy Improve Our Financial Decision-Making?," Papers EC8, Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI).
    3. Raj Chetty & Adam Looney & Kory Kroft, 2009. "Salience and Taxation: Theory and Evidence," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 99(4), pages 1145-1177, September.
    4. S. Dellavigna., 2011. "Psychology and Economics: Evidence from the Field," VOPROSY ECONOMIKI, N.P. Redaktsiya zhurnala "Voprosy Economiki", vol. 5.
    5. Douglas Bernheim & Antonio Rangel, 2007. "Beyond Revealed Preference Choice Theoretic Foundations for Behavioral Welfare Economics," Discussion Papers 07-031, Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research.
    6. Xavier Gabaix & David Laibson, 2006. "Shrouded Attributes, Consumer Myopia, and Information Suppression in Competitive Markets," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 121(2), pages 505-540.
    7. Chris M. Wilson & Catherine Waddams Price, 2010. "Do consumers switch to the best supplier?," Oxford Economic Papers, Oxford University Press, vol. 62(4), pages 647-668, October.
    8. Matthew Bennett & Unknown & Amelia Fletcher & Liz Hurley & David Ruck, 2010. "What Does Behavioral Economics Mean for Competition Policy?," CPI Journal, Competition Policy International, vol. 6.
    9. Huck, Steffen & Zhou, Jidong, 2011. "Consumer behavioural biases in competition: A survey," MPRA Paper 31794, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)


    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.

    Cited by:

    1. Lunn, Pete & Bohacek, Marek & Somerville, Jason & Ni Choisdealbha, Aine & McGowan, Feidhlim, 2016. "PRICE Lab: An Investigation of Consumers’ Capabilities with Complex Products," Research Series, Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI), number BKMNEXT306.
    2. Peter Lunn, 2015. "Are Consumer Decision-Making Phenomena a Fourth Market Failure?," Journal of Consumer Policy, Springer, vol. 38(3), pages 315-330, September.

    More about this item


    Policy/policy development/Ireland;

    NEP fields

    This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:


    Access and download statistics


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:esr:wpaper:wp425. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Sarah Burns). General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.