President Promotes Behavioral Science in Federal Program Design

In an Executive Order promulgated last week, the Obama Administration pushes agencies to use behavioral science insights to better design government programs and policies to serve the public.

In essence, the Executive Order means that agencies should use information about how people make decisions to drive outcomes sought by government programs.

A report released by the White House’s Social and Behavioral Sciences Team (SBST) demonstrated how relatively small changes could drive policy outcomes. For example, a new design for an email campaign to increase savings by service members nearly doubled enrollment of those service members in federal savings plans.

The Administration announced it made permanent the SBST, a cross-agency group of experts from human-centered design, behavioral economics, and related fields, which will provide advice and guidance to help agencies implement the Executive Order, according to an OSTP blog post.

A guidance memo to agencies from Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) Administrator Howard Shelanski and John Holdren, Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), outlines how they can use behavioral science insights in their work. 

“When government programs aren’t working, those on the left tend to support more funding, while those on the right want to scrap them altogether. It is better to ask whether the problem is complexity and poor design. We can solve those problems — sometimes without spending a penny,” former Obama Administration official Cass Sunstein wrote in the The New York Times.

Posted in General News




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