Watching your basic behaviour

Behavioural insights


Forgetting to file your taxes on time. Not cleaning up after your dog when it leaves a mess on a public street. Driving above the speed limit. Why do we behave in certain ways and not others? Why are certain polices effective, eliciting desired behaviours and improving people’s lives, while others fail to do so?

Behavioural science has shown that our choices and actions are all influenced both by context and our own biases and that a more nuanced understanding of human behaviour can lead to better policies.

Policymakers who want to achieve impact should consider what actually drives the decisions and behaviours of citizens rather than relying on assumptions of how they should act. And they can draw on behavioural insights (BI) to do so. Grounded in rigorous research from behavioural economics and the behavioural sciences, BI can help public bodies understand citizen needs and why citizens behave as they do, as well as allow them to pre-test policy solutions. By integrating BI into the policymaking process, governments can better anticipate the behavioural consequences of a policy and, ultimately, design and deliver more effective policies that improve the welfare of citizens.

This report provides concrete guidance on how to apply BI more systematically and responsibly. Its toolkit helps policymakers work through the “BASIC” (Behaviours, Analysis, Strategies, Interventions and Change) methodology and apply BI to any policy problem from start to finish. By understanding how and under what circumstances BI can be applied to cause behaviour change, policymakers are far more likely to design and deliver effective policies.

Although the report is geared to policymakers who have limited or even no experience with BI, it will also be of interest to confirmed BI practitioners and points readers who are ready to go further towards a wealth of resources.


OECD (2019), Tools and Ethics for Applied Behavioural Insights: The BASIC Toolkit, OECD Publishing, Paris,

©OECD Observer July Q3 2019

Economic data

GDP growth: -9.8% Q2/Q1 2020 2020
Consumer price inflation: 1.3% Sep 2020 annual
Trade (G20): -17.7% exp, -16.7% imp, Q2/Q1 2020
Unemployment: 7.3% Sep 2020
Last update: 10 Nov 2020

OECD Observer Newsletter

Stay up-to-date with the latest news from the OECD by signing up for our e-newsletter :

Twitter feed

Digital Editions

Don't miss

Most Popular Articles

NOTE: All signed articles in the OECD Observer express the opinions of the authors
and do not necessarily represent the official views of OECD member countries.

All rights reserved. OECD 2020