Robert M. La Follette School of Public Affairs

The Behavioral Insights for Government (BIG) lecture series brings to policymakers the practical lessons from behavioral economics and public administration.

Behavioral economics, which applies insights from psychology to better understand the roots of human behavior, is starting to influence the practice of public management. Approximately 25 people from state and local government participated in each lecture during the pilot series.

La Follette School Director and Professor Don Moynihan and Justin Sydnor, an associate professor at the Wisconsin School of Business and the Behavioral Research Insights Through Experiments (BRITE) Lab at UW-Madison, launched the initiative in spring 2017. The Herb Kohl Research Competition and UW-Madison's Center for European Studies and Jean Monnet European Union Center of Excellence provide funding for the series. 

chou eileen crop 2x3Thursday, December 7, 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. 

What's in a Name: The Psychological and Behavioral Effects of E-Signatures on Individual Decision-Making
Eileen Chou, Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy, University of Virginia

Madison Public Library, 3rd floor
201 W. Mifflin Street

People cherish the symbolic value of their unique hand signature. However, technological advances have led organizations to reject traditional signatures in favor of the efficiency and convenience of e-signatures.

In this Behavioral Insights for Government (BIG) presentation, Eileen Chou will review her research on the role of signatures in public policy. She examines the possibility that e-signatures do not exert the same symbolic weight for people's behavior, exposing a potentially critical, and largely overlooked, problem in public policy uses of e-signatures.

Chou provides evidence that different types of e-signatures have different effects on curbing dishonest behaviors and securing prosocial commitments.

Chou is a social psychologist at the University of Virginia's Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy. She holds a doctorate in management and organization from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. Her research also discusses how fiscal stress and inequality are related to physical stress, and how social environments generate risk-taking behavior. 


Dur PHS 7437 cropped 2x3

Tuesday, October 3, 12:30 to 1:30 p.m.

Field Experiments to Learn about Behavior and Improve Public Policies
Robert Dur of Erasmus School of Economics, Netherlands

Madison Public Library, 3rd floor
201 W. Mifflin Street 

Professor Robert Dur, one of the world's leading economists in applying behavioral science to practical policy issues, will show how behavioral insights can be used to tackle pressing issues faced by state and local governments around the world. 

Dur will draw on practical examples from his own work with local governments in the Netherlands, including a series of experiments aimed at reducing littering and dumping waste by citizens. The research shows how public officials and social scientists successfully worked together to design promising policy interventions and to implement them in such a way that credible evidence on their effects could be gathered. Some of the interventions were very effective, others were failures. 

Dur will discuss the importance of assessing the impact of policies in a credible way using a broad set of measures. 

"Dur is one of the most accomplished behavioral economists in the world,” said La Follette School Director and Professor Don Moynihan. “He has partnered with governments to generate practical insights across a range of policy areas. We are honored to welcome him."

Dur is a professor of economics in the Department of Economics at Erasmus University Rotterdam and a research fellow of the Tinbergen Institute, CESifo Munich, and IZA Bonn. He has held visiting positions at Bocconi Univerisity, the University of Munich, and the University of Vienna.

Dur’s research interests include personnel economics, organizational economics, and behavioral economics. He works on both theory and empirics. Currently, he is running a series of field experiments with companies and public-sector organizations on pro-social and anti-social behaviour. His work has been published in Economic Journal, Journal of Labor Economics, Journal of Public Economics, Management Science, and other publications.

Spring 2017 speakers, presentations