March 20, 2013

A little psychology at the service of the people

Economy

A little psychology at the service of the people

The economy has always been at the center of public debate and governmental programs. Every government turns to economists for help in assessing the effects of fiscal policies, public expenditure and investment strategies. Some, however, are tapping into other social sciences, and in particular psychology, to help improve what they do.

British Prime Minister, David Cameron, has set up the “Behavioural Insights Team”, a group of experts to support his government that is trying to identify, on the basis of psychological research, the best methods for communicating and supporting policies that benefit individuals and the wider community.

The British team has demonstrated, for example, that competition and emulation can be key factors in fostering virtuous behavior and it has already begun, by engaging these attitudes, to achieve positive outcomes both in terms of energy savings and tax revenues.

Why has this impressed me? Because, from study and experience, I believe that while the tools of the economy are a must for good government, perhaps they are no longer enough. For some years now, the academic world has also seen the establishment of a strand of research that endeavors to integrate the study of the economy with research, for example, in the field of psychology. Certainly, we are seeing an attempt to move in the direction of a more complex and detailed vision of how society lives, in which humanistic knowledge can once again play its role as an irreplaceable tool in the understanding and administration of public life.

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