BRU Programmes

Who we work with, on what topics

Find summaries of our research programmes related to Finance and Consumer Choice, Household Services, Health, the Environment and Methods and Theory in Behavioural Economics below. Our full list of published articles and working papers from these programmes can be found here.

Finance and Consumer Choice

We work with the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC), focussing mostly on financial products. We have completed research on personal loan calculators (paper), car finance (paper) and mortgage switching (paper). We are currently undertaking a behavioural programme to help consumers to save for financial shocks.

We have a new programme of research with the Insolvency Service of Ireland which will begin in Spring 2020. The programme will consist of an experiment to test the provision of information related to personal insolvency arrangements.

Beginning in 2020, in research funded by the Health Insurance Authority, we will conduct experiments to evaluate consumer decision-making and understanding in existing health insurance markets and test potential ways to improve choices, for example through behaviourally-informed comparison tools.

Research funded by the OECD is looking at online disclosures about personalised pricing. We have conducted one experiment in Ireland to investigate the effects of disclosure on consumer decisions and plan to replicate this experiment in Chile in Spring 2020. More…

A programme of research with the Pensions Authority has examined comprehension of pensions and the effect on decision making. We have tested benefit statements (paper) and different ways of presenting information on investments (paper) and annuities (paper).

We undertake research on decisions involving financial products for the Central Bank of Ireland. The most recent report (review) consisted of a review of financial product features that cause consumers difficulty.

We have also published research on how behavioural factors contributed to Ireland’s banking crisis (paper).

Household Services

In work for the Commission for Regulation of Utilities we have pre-tested the provision of “Estimated Annual Bills” for energy tariffs (paper) and investigated consumer attitudes and choices regarding the adoption of smart meters (paper).

We work with the Commission for Communications Regulation (ComReg) to investigate how consumers choose communications products. Our experiments have examined choices with respect to mobile handset packages, broadband speeds (paper) and premium rate services. Work in 2020 will examine the uptake of broadband in rural areas.

We work with Irish Water to assist their lead mitigation programme. The first two strands of this programme involved an analysis of communications sent to homeowners and reviewed the relevant literature on behavioural change. A trial testing new communications is set to be undertaken in 2020. More…

An experiment undertaken in collaboration with the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland involves testing the BER certificate. We tested different formats to see how well they communicate information about household energy efficiency. Results are due in 2020. More…

We are conducting a series of studies funded by the OECD and the Water Industry Commission of Scotland, designed to inform a strategic review of water regulation and charges in Scotland. Our experiments investigate how people resolve various trade-offs between charges, services, and risks. More…

Health

We have a programme of research on obesity and food choice funded by the Department of Health. A first study pre-tested formats for calorie posting on restaurant menus using eye-tracking (paper) and a second tested portion size cues on high fat, salt and sugar snacks (paper due in early 2020).

We are working with Sport Ireland to improve physical activity and sports participation among socially disadvantaged communities in Ireland. This two phase programme first reviewed international research (paper), then designed trials of interventions in Ireland. Papers containing results are due in early 2020. More….

Two of our three research programmes with the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM) are concerned with behaviour to combat the spread of tuberculosis (more), and the challenge of anti-microbial resistance (more).

Environment

A rolling programme of research funded by the Environmental Protection Agency has investigated how the presentation of environmental information affects consumer choice, the framing of taxes on car emissions (paper) and the long-term impact of the Green-Schools Programme on environmental understanding and behaviour. Current and planned research include testing the framing of pollution information and the uptake of radon tests in high risk areas. More…

We study public perceptions of mineral exploration and environmental risks, in collaboration with the Geological Survey of Ireland. This forms a part of a wider EU-funded Horizon 2020 project about innovation in exploration techniques. Results will be available in 2020. More…

We have a third research programme with the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM) on farmers’ noncompliance with EU Nitrates Regulations. The programme combines statistical modelling of the risk of noncompliance (paper) with field trials designed to increase compliance (paper due in Spring 2020). More…

A new research programme, funded by AIB, will examine how well people in Ireland understand climate change and whether there is a link between comprehension of the problem and willingness to support personal and national actions to reduce emissions. Results are expected in Summer 2020. More…

Methods and Theory in Applied Behavioural Economics

We designed and regularly conduct a training course for European Commission staff on how to apply behavioural science to policy. We have published research on how to use evidence for policy (paper) and the use of lab experiments for policy (paper).

We also have “core” research strands, in which we conduct experimental tests of methods and theory that are relevant for applying behavioural science to policy. For example, we tested how consumers evaluate products with multiple attributes (paper). Papers to appear in 2020 will consider how the order of information influences consumer choices and how participant recruitment methods (e.g. online vs. in the lab) affect responses.