Reflections on the scale of impact of the new behavioural sciences on public policy-making
This is a guest post from Professor Mark Whitehead of Aberystwyth University.
With all of the contemporary debate and discussion about nudge-type policies it can be difficult to assess the scale of the impacts that the ‘new’ behavioural sciences (including behavioural economics, behavioural psychology and even neuroscience) are actually having on public policy. At one level, there is a tendency to dismiss nudge-inspired initiatives as being relatively marginal within the broader universe of politics and public policy-making. But such dismissive perspectives are rarely based on careful analyses of actually exiting policies. There are, of course, many different ways in which you can begin to assess the scale of the impacts of any policy regime. Scales of impact can relate to the relative number of policies that have been shaped by new insights; or the actual affects that related policies have on people’s everyday lives. Scales of impact can also relate to the geographical prevalence of the policies under consideration. In a recent report entitled Nudging all Over the World: Assessing the Global Impact of the Behavioural Sciences on Public Policy we outline the scale of the geographical spread of nudge-type policies.
The global spread of nudge-type policies (states shaded blue have engaged in the central orchestration of nudge-types policies; those shaded red show evidence of some form of nudge-type policy being applied in their territory)
Calling all teachers, researchers and campaigners with an interest in values and food!
In September we kicked off Food Values: a nine month action research project with Organic Centre Wales. The goal of this project is to explore what food education based on values looks like, and we’ll do this through a series of research seminars and public food events around Wales that run until June 2015.
The first research seminar was a big success, bringing academics and practitioners to Aberystwyth University to discuss food values and good education practice. We talked about how the values framework helped us understand what worked well in the past, and why. A good food event is participative, fun and creative (everyone has something to say about food!); it makes the social relationships visible by revealing the real people and places involved in getting the food to our tables, and it situates food issues, for example around security and sovereignty, firmly in the context of wider social change.
Taken by Christian, aka net_efekt, 2008, licensed under Creative Commons https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/legalcode
“I’m next to a giant pigeon and a tribute to Kate Bush” “We’re right at the front – just behind Emma Thompson…” “Anywhere near the sound system?” “I’m a solar panel!”
So went a series of text messages between my friends and I at around Sunday lunchtime, as we tried to locate each other at the People’s Climate March in London. I found most of them – eventually – apart from one elusive chap (who isn’t very good with technology or directions) – the last messages we exchanged were along the lines of “Ah well – seeya next time – was awesome anyways, super positive”.
From Li Photo Capital, licensed under Creative Commons https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/
And it was – really positive – a reflection of a perceptible shift in the environmental movement’s general engagement strategy. What was particularly surprising was that this was led by Avaaz – better known for repeatedly telling us “24 hours to save everything or else we’re all gonna die!”. The type of messaging that has, in my eyes, only strengthened “Apocalypse Fatigue”. Something that looks suspiciously like apathy in environmentalists and the wider public alike but is actually more likely an increasing sense of hopelessness. Because… Read more
A guest blog from Martin Kirk on what’s up with the current poverty discourse.
We know that many people in the UK misunderstand poverty and development: there’s reams of evidence on that. But there are interesting lessons to be had when we look at what it is that they actually think. For example: the idea that Oxfam run orphanages, something that surfaced when Oxfam CEO Mark Goldring recently appeared on an episode of Undercover Boss. While this sort of misplaced belief might seem trivial, it exposes a far bigger problem than a simple case of misinformation.
First, let’s think about why it is that people might hold this belief. I worked for Oxfam for many years, and I never saw anything about orphanages in public communications, so it seems a strange belief to be common. Of all the possible things people could envision, not to mention all the many things Oxfam actually does and talks quite loudly about, why orphanages?
The reason it appears in people’s heads is that it follows logically from their understanding of poverty and of Oxfam.
This is a guest blog from Jane Powell, originally posted here.
What does food mean to us? Is it fuel for the engine, a fashion item, an export commodity, a sensual temptation, a vehicle for culture and celebration, a badge of religious and political identity, or a vital connection with the natural world? It can be all of these things and more, and the stories we tell about food will have consequences for what we choose to eat, and ultimately the food systems that we end up with.
“Human beings show a broad spectrum of qualities, but it is the worst of these that are usually emphasised, and the result, too often, is to dishearten us, diminish our spirit.” – Howard Zinni
In a recent OpenDemocracy piece, I argued that the way we’re living now – over-worked, over-consuming, environmentally-destructive, indebted, isolated and unhappy – has a strong relationship with the models of ownership and decision-making in our institutions.
Why, and what can we do?
We’ve recently been working with Genis Carreras – the talented graphic designer behind Philographics – to visualise the Schwartz values inventory and we need your help!
But first, here are some example values…
Common Cause draws on research by an academic called Shalom Schwartz, who divides values into four overarching groups: openness-to-change, self-transcendence, self-enhancement, and conservation. Yeah, right, they’re a bit of a mouthful.
It also draws on work from researchers such as Grouzet and Kasser who use a similar model but that relates to goals.
When we’re talking about Common Cause, we often just talk about two values groups that combine the two: ‘intrinsic’ and ‘extrinsic’. This terminology is pretty familiar to many people now, and it’s particularly useful for telling a simple story of how our society has become more materialistic, more unequal and more selfish – shifting from intrinsic to extrinsic – like George Monbiot recently did in the Guardian.
But as with any simple story, it’s incomplete. Read more
Common Cause ruined my career, it removed a lot of my assumptions, and took me to a more radical perspective. It was like taking the red pill, once you’ve taken it you can’t go back. You see how misdirected much progressive work is.
Martin Kirk, /The Rules, ex Head of Campaigns at Oxfam-GB
Common Cause applies what we know about motivation from social psychology to the big problems facing the world. We’ve had a go at whittling it down to 10 principles…
What do you value in life?
If you ask anybody this question, there’s surprising similarity in what people say. You can generally put people’s values into four broad groups:
- Change & autonomy values, such as creativity and freedom,are linked to tolerance and comfort with difference. (Openness-to-change values)
- Care & empathy values are all about concern for others and the environment, equality and tolerance. (Self-transcendence, or intrinsic values)
- Stability & security values, such as social order and respect for tradition, are associated with maintenance of the status quo and discomfort with other groups. (Conservation values)
- Power & competition values are linked to prejudice, discrimination, materialism and concern about status, self and money. (Self-enhancement, or extrinsic values)
We all hold all of these values, but to different degrees. These four groups work in opposition to each other as in the diagram below. Care/empathy values are opposite power/competition, and change/autonomy values oppose stability/security values. This means we’re unlikely to value one set highly if we value the other set highly. (Read more about how this works here!)