Changing Behaviours

Changing Behaviours

On the Rise of the Psychological State

Rhys Jones, Jessica Pykett and Mark Whitehead

Changing Behaviours charts the emergence of the behaviour change agenda in UK based public policy making since the late 1990s. By tracing the influence of the behavioural sciences on Whitehall policy makers, the authors explore a new psychological orthodoxy in the practices of governing. Drawing on original empirical material, chapters examine the impact of behaviour change policies in the fields of health, personal finance and the environment. This topical and insightful book analyses how the nature of the human subject itself is re-imagined through behaviour change, and develops an analytical framework for evaluating the ethics, efficacy and potential empowerment of behaviour change.

Conclusion: Nudge, Think, Steer, Punch! Searching for the real Third Way

Rhys Jones, Jessica Pykett and Mark Whitehead

Subjects: economics and finance, behavioural and experimental economics, politics and public policy, public policy


Our approach in this book has been to make the connections between particular intellectual traditions and disciplines, thinkers, policy strategists and the policy-making community, and specific behaviour change initiatives on the ground. In doing so we risk reifying a diverse and politically divergent set of practices under the simple moniker of the behaviour change agenda. Therefore in this Conclusion we want to further unpack the apparent coherence of behaviour change by systematically applying the ethical and political critique developed throughout the book to three distinct strands of behavioural governance promoted amongst the contemporary UK policy-making community: Nudge, Think and Steer. Nudge popularizes insights from behavioural economics to promote a psychologically savvy state able to guide citizen behaviours without restricting free choice (Thaler and Sunstein, 2008). Think refers to the strategy promoted by a group of political scientists who have developed an alternative to Nudge based on theories of deliberative democracy, whereby citizens are not implicitly guided towards particular behaviours, but make active and informed behavioural choices based on public dialogue (John et al., 2009, 2011).

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