skip to primary navigationskip to content

David Halpern, Inside the Nudge Unit - Public Policy Lecture

last modified Dec 06, 2015 06:43 PM
A lecture on the application of behavioural insights to public policy from Dr David Halpern, Director of the Behavioural Insights Team.

We were delighted to host Dr David Halpern, director of the Behavioural Insights Team, for a public policy lecture presented with the Centre for Science and Policy, the Cambridge Masters in Public Policy and the Cambridge University Science and Policy Exchange. Drawing on his 2015 book, ‘Inside the Nudge Unit’, the lecture reflected on the development of the nudge approach and the application of behavioural economics to public policy, in which David Halpern has played a key role and which has grown to be a worldwide application in the ten years since the nudge approach began.

 The lecture illustrated the small changes that can be made to public policy in a variety of contexts such as tax, healthcare, pensions, employment, crime reduction, energy, conservation and economic growth, which have positive effects. How social norms influence our response to choices, from paying taxes, opting in to organ donor programmes, and turning up to hospital appointments. And importantly, how we can test and measure the precise impact of small changes to the communication of norms, so that the benefits, in terms of reduced missed appointments, increased tax revenue, or increased donor participation, can be measured against the cost of implementing them.

 Overall the lessons from the work of the nudge unit are the benefits of an empirical approach to public policy – testing out ideas, using randomized controlled trials where appropriate, in order to establish ‘what works’. It is this thinking that is being applied in education and local government for example in the ‘What works’ centres, to which the nudge unit are advisers.

 The lecture showed the wide interest in public policy issues across the Cambridge community, and particularly in the application of behavioural insights to policy issues. Questions from the audience covered a wide range of issues such as how sustained were the effects shown from nudge approaches, how important was political support for the nudge approach to succeed, and what new thinking and ideas were coming out of psychology and behavioural approaches that could point to new applications of the nudge approach in the future.


RSS Feed Latest news

Britain’s Broken Economic Model and Why Brexit isn’t the Cure

Nov 15, 2018

Simon Deakin, Director of the Centre for Business Research and Professor of Law at the University of Cambridge, tells the Cambridge Public Policy SRI (Strategic Research Initiative) why Brexit isn’t the cure for Britain’s broken economic model.

There’s no better trade deal for the UK than being in the EU but the Chequers ‘sticky tape’ may just help the UK Brexit if it still wants to.

Sep 21, 2018

Dr Lorand Bartels, a Reader in International Law at the University of Cambridge, teaches WTO & EU law, tells the Cambridge Public Policy SRI (Strategic Research Initiative) what he thinks the UK’s prospects are of getting proper trade deals with other countries post Brexit.

Will Michel Barnier save Theresa May’s bacon and will historian’s look back on a wasted three months soon after the UK’s June 2016 Referendum?

Sep 13, 2018

Catherine Barnard, Professor of EU Law at the University of Cambridge and a Senior Fellow of UK in a Changing Europe tells the Cambridge Public Policy SRI (Strategic Research Initiative) what she thinks of the UK government’s Chequers Deal.

View all news

About Us

We aim to support public policy research across Cambridge University, working with colleagues in science, social science, the arts and humanities, to apply new thinking to public policy problems and promote research and analysis into the public policy process. We hope to connect and raise the profile of existing public policy related work across the University and support collaborative research that includes policy development in a range of subject areas. 

Contact us if you are interested in joining the initiative or would like to know more.