Ten years of Ireland’s Behavioural Research Unit

November 1, 2023

Sanders, M., Bhanot, S., O' Flaherty, S. (Eds), Behavioral Public Policy in a Global Context

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The origins of the Behavioural Research Unit (BRU) in Ireland lay in the financial crisis. The calamity was particularly acute in Ireland, where policymakers could see that orthodox economic models based on competition and rational consumer choice had provided insufficient underpinnings for policy. Starting in 2012, a group of Ireland’s economic regulators decided to fund the BRU to undertake experimental studies to investigate how well consumers made decisions when faced with complex products. Armed with the results, the BRU was able to demonstrate the benefits of using behavioral experiments for policy research. This allowed the group to expand and to secure funding for research on decisions and behaviors with health and environmental outcomes. Over the past decade, the BRU team has learned many lessons. These lead us to advocate deploying a broad range of research methods, prioritizing diagnostic as well as intervention studies, working closely with (but independently of) government and embracing open science practices.