March 9, 2022
On March 1, the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine’s (NASEM) Committee on Future Directions for Applying Behavioral Economics to Policy held its first open-session meeting. This consensus study will review the evidence regarding the application of insights from behavioral economics to key public policy objectives and examine past applications and controversies that have emerged as the field progressed. The committee is tasked with developing guiding principles in support of future progress and exploring possible avenues for collaboration across NASEM’s disciplines.
The following sponsors of the study provided introductory remarks during the meeting:
- Daniel Goroff, Ph.D., Vice President and Program Director, Alfred P. Sloan Foundation
- Christine Hunter, Ph.D., ABPP, Acting Associate Director for Behavioral and Social Sciences Research, and Acting Director of the Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research, National Institutes of Health (NIH OBSSR)
Dr. Goroff highlighted the Sloan Foundation’s mission of supporting original research and education for science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and economics. With the conviction that the work in these fields drive the nation’s health and prosperity, the Sloan Foundation supports research projects in the behavioral sciences related to “choice architecture” and economic decision-making. These research topics include risk-taking, cognitive biases, behavioral applications to policy, experimental testing of nudges or other regulatory interventions, behavioral welfare economics, and more. The Foundation’s Economic Programs seek to support research on the U.S. economic structure, behavior, and performance that would inform and strengthen decision-making by regulators, policymakers, and the public.
Dr. Goroff cited the following challenges that the Foundation is addressing:
- Behavioral Welfare Economics
- Regulatory Applications of Behavioral Economics (BE)
- Behavioral Macroeconomics
- Economics of Attention
- The Conceptual Underpinning of BE
Dr. Hunter underlined NIH work in the field of behavioral economics and shared her perspectives on future directions for this research. In recent years, NIH has increased research funding in behavioral economics and its application to health, covering a broad range of diseases and populations, offering novel solutions to problems where traditional ways of thinking often fail to acknowledge the influence of human psychology and behavior. These findings by the NIH present a need to identify the current states of gaps and opportunities to accelerate future research. Dr. Hunter concluded by sharing additional goals in this field:
- Review evidence in applying behavioral economics to critical health and mental health needs.
- Assess the research’s effectiveness in informing decision makers, preventing diseases, and improving the health and public health.
- Identify pressing research gaps and opportunities.
- Propose recommendations that the NIH (and other research funders) can strategically and effectively consider for future research.