The Social and Behavioral Science Team, established by Barack Obama, has produced its first annual report. The unit applies insights from behavioral science in an attempt to make government more effective.
David Cameron, the UK Prime Minister, set up a similar unit in 2010 which has now been spun off as an independent entity.
Questions studied by the US team include
- Does the design of an email increase participation in a Federal workplace savings scheme? (Yes)
- Do regular personalized text messages to low income students increase college enrolment? (Yes)
- Does explaining to veterans how to apply for education and career benefits increase the uptake? (No)
- Does the timing of an e-mail survey alter the chances of it being completed? (Yes)
It’s all very “micro”, but maybe that’s where the gains are to be had. UK Olympic cycling coach Dave Brailsford brought home seven goal medals by improving everything tiny thing related to cycling by one percent. Sometimes the Devil is in the details.
Update: The 2016 report is now available.