Governing Cognitive Biases – Case studies of the use of and justifications for behaviorally informed policy tools
Abstract: In the last few decades, researchers have identified many systematic errors – cognitive biases – in the human mind. The predominant notion of human beings as rational have gradually been flawed, in one context after another. In the last few years scholars have approached the question of what policy implications should be derived from these findings and what solutions there might be. Three main philosophic lines have been argued for: soft paternalism, coercive (hard) paternalism and skeptical libertarians. The theoretical framework of this paper is composed of case relevant cognitive biases together with suggested debiasing strategies. The main aim of this study is to bridge the gap between theory and practice. By analyzing mainly official documents in three cases – the UK, the US and the EU – of in-practice use of, both a case specific and an aggregated picture are presented. Questions of why and how government administrations have chosen to work with behavioral insights are in focus. The results show that a soft paternalist approach is the preferred strategy, but more coercive elements are also used. The identified ways to tackle cognitive biases in practice can be concluded in the use of default options, simplification and smart disclosure.
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