BRU Programmes

Who we work with, on what topics

Below are our current projects related to Finance and Consumer Choice, Household Services, Health, and the Environment. For prevous projects, please see our publication list.

Department of Finance
Switching to Better Value Financial Products

In a research programme funded by the Department of Finance, we will design and test interventions to boost consumers’ capability to switch to better value financial products. This programme will first deploy diagnostic online experiments to gain insight into consumer capability with multiple financial products. Results will inform the design of interventions to be pre-tested with further online experiments and field trials. This programme is due to begin in Summer 2021.
Pete Lunn
Deirdre Robertson
Shane Timmons

Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC)
Encouraging Active Saving for Financial Shocks

We have a programme of research to encourage active saving for financial shocks, funded by the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission. The initial stages of the research included a literature review and analysis of existing survey data to identify potential interventions. A randomised controlled trial testing two of these interventions is currently underway and is being facilitated by a high street bank. Results are expected in January 2022.
Shane Timmons
Deirdre Robertson
Pete Lunn

Insolvency Service of Ireland (ISI)
Personal Insolvency
The Insolvency Service of Ireland commissioned us to undertake research using behavioural science to inform how debtors may best navigate information relating to ISI solutions.  Data collection has been completed and the final report is expected in Autumn 2021.

Cameron Belton
Hannah Julienne
Shane Timmons
Pete Lunn

Health Insurance Authority
Health Insurance
A research programme funded by the Health Insurance Authority investigates consumer choices of health insurance plans in Ireland. The first stage of the investigation is diagnostic, aimed at evaluating consumer understanding and decision-making in existing health insurance markets, while the second stage consists of an intervention to improve available tools to compare health insurance plans. The first online study has been conducted in early 2021 and we are currently working on designing a behaviourally-informed plan comparison tool to be tested in the second study. Results are expected in Autumn 2021.

Cameron Belton
Martina Barjaková
Pete Lunn

Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD)
Water Regulation in Scotland
This programme is funded by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and the Water Industry Commission for Scotland (WICS). It is a multi-stage project that will inform a strategic review of the water industry in Scotland.

We are conducting our experiments both online with large samples of Scottish consumers and also in controlled laboratory settings, to ensure the robustness of our findings.
The first and second research studies are complete. We investigated the response of consumers to alternative charging trajectories. We tested how sympathetic people are to price increases, differences between increases expressed in percentage format rather than monetary amounts, and whether consumers prefer annual increases to be concentrated in the first few years of a six-year planning period, spread evenly across the period, or focused at the end of the period. We also investigated how consumers make trade-offs between various water services and their associated charges, and what factors influence these trade-offs. We found, using novel methodology that requires participants to make these trade-offs explicitly, that preferences for services are not sensitive to the costs of different improvements but are sensitive to the lengths of time improvements take to be made. People are increasingly accepting of price rises when information about costs and timings of improvements is provided.
A third research study is currently in preparation that will consider preferences for risk mitigation in water services.
Cameron Belton
Ciarán Lavin
Deirdre Robertson
Pete Lunn

Department of Health
Behavioural Responses to COVID Measures
Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020, we have been working with the Department of Health on a range of projects concerning attitudes and behavioural responses to COVID restrictions and disease prevention measures.

We have tested posters to encourage social distancing (paper), flow diagrams to aid self-isolation decisions (paper), assessed attitudes about risky behaviours (paper) and the test and trace system (paper), tested the COVID tracker app (paper), assessed expectations of the lifting of restrictions (paper) and attitudes towards the COVID-19 vaccine (paper).
Since January 2021 we have been running the Social Activity Measure (SAM) in collaboration with the Department of the Taoiseach. SAM is a behavioural study that records the public response to the risk of COVID-19 infection. Data from a nationally representative sample of 1,000 adults are collected every two weeks, with reports published regularly here.
Pete Lunn
Deirdre Robertson
Shane Timmons
Hannah Julienne
Cameron Belton
Martina Barjaková
Ciarán Lavin
Féidhlim McGowan
Kieran Mohr
Olga Poluektova

Department of Health
Food Choice
This programme is funded by the Department of Health. We investigate how consumers make food choices and we test potential interventions designed to promote better choices. 
In the first year, we conducted an experimental pre-test of different formats for calorie posting on restaurant menus. The study used a lab-in-the-field experiment that allowed us to track consumers’ eye-movements while they picked their lunch from a menu. The results (paper) showed that calorie posting reduced consumption, but the effect depended on the format. This behavioural evidence is informing planned legislation. 
In the second year, we conducted two field trials to test whether the amount of high fat, sugar and salt (HFSS) foods people eat can be reduced by printing salient visual cues on packaging that show appropriate portion sizes. The results (paper) showed that the visual cues reduced consumption in some subgroups of the population. 
A third study is looking at the effect of NutriScore labelling on consumer choice and consumption. Results are expected in 2022.
Deirdre Robertson
Pete Lunn
Ciarán Lavin

Sport Ireland
Physical Activity and Sports Participation in Socially Disadvantaged Communities

This research programme was funded by Sport Ireland via the Dormant Accounts Fund. We investigated ways to help people improve their levels of physical activity and test interventions designed to promote increased participation within socially disadvantaged communities in Ireland.
The first phase of the research programme involved an international review of previous tests of physical activity interventions in the general population and in socially disadvantaged communities. The review (Working Paper) highlighted a number of behavioural mechanisms that are likely to support people to increase their levels of physical activity.
In the second phase, we designed and systematically tested two interventions aimed at increasing physical activity and sports participation among socially disadvantaged communities. These interventions focused on two distinct target groups – children of school-leaving age and parents of pre-school children. The papers will be available in 2021.
Laura Gormley
Cameron Belton
Pete Lunn
Deirdre Robertson

Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM)
Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) in Agriculture

This research programme supported by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM) began in Summer 2019. The programme aims to provide a behavioural analysis of antibiotic prescribing and use, with a view to designing and testing interventions to support appropriate practice.  
Pete Lunn
Deirdre Robertson

Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM)
Tuberculosis (TB)
This research programme supported by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM) began in Summer 2019. The programme investigates behavioural factors and remedies in support of the Government’s target of the eradication of TB from the Irish herd.  
The first stage of the project is complete. We undertook a large scale qualitative study to elicit comprehensively and inclusively the views of Irish farmers on TB and its eradication in Ireland. Interviews with farmers identified multiple specific factors involved in decisions to implement measures aimed at reducing the risk of TB incident, contexts in which this is less likely, and farmers’ concerns with the programme as it stands.
Understanding these factors and which are most important in various contexts will be crucial to the success of the eradication programme in Ireland. The next stage of the research programme is being designed. It will investigate further with experimental methods the mechanisms identified in the qualitative stage, and measure their respective influences.
Pete Lunn
Deirdre Robertson
Ciarán Lavin

Children’s Health Ireland (CHI)
Serious Games for Medical Decision-Making

This line of work centres around the psychological mechanisms underlying inappropriate prescription and misuse of antibiotics in hospitals and solutions that would help improve prescribers’ decision-making, such as serious games. We are working with the Antimicrobial Stewardship Team of Temple Street Children’s Hospital.
Having obtained seed funding from Children’s Health Ireland, we are currently carrying out a systematic review of the factors that influence antibiotics over-prescription in community and inpatient settings. The results of the review can be used to inform future experimental work and the design of a behaviourally informed serious game targeting biases in antibiotics prescription decisions.
Olga Poluektova
Ciarán Lavin
Deirdre Robertson
Pete Lunn

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
Testing for Radon

In one of multiple programmes funded by Environmental Protection Agency, we are testing ways to encourage people to test their home for exposure to radon. In the first phase, we conducted an online experiment to test how features of radon risk maps influence willingness to test for radon. The report is expected Autumn 2021.
The next phase is a field trial and will be informed by the results of the online experiment. The trial will test whether behaviourally-informed letters issued to households can improve testing rates in high-risk areas. The trial is expected to run in Autumn 2021, with results early 2022.
Shane Timmons
Pete Lunn

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
Communicating Environmental Issues
The Environmental Protection Agency have commissioned us to examine ways to improve communication about environmental issues with young people. Work on this project began in Summer 2021, with a review of the relevant literature and discussion with key stakeholders currently underway.
Shane Timmons
Jaime Fernández Algorri
Pete Lunn

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
Improving Household Waste Management
The Environmental Protection Agency have commissioned us to examine ways to improve communication about environmental issues with young people. Work on this project began in Summer 2021, with a review of the relevant literature and discussion with key stakeholders currently underway.
Shane Timmons
Jaime Fernández Algorri
Pete Lunn

Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI)
Efficiency of Household Hot Water Use
This programme is funded by the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) and is being run in co-operation with Climote Ltd who have developed in-home-display technology that shows householders how much hot water they have in their tanks. It is a multi-stage programme that will first pre-test various different interface designs for a Smartphone App in an online study with the most promising interface going on to be tested in a field trial. Results from the initial online study are expected in Autumn 2021.

Kieran Mohr
Deirdre Robertson