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Behavioral Sciences and Public Policy

14, 15, 16 November 2023
9 AM – 5PM


Prof. Dr. Lars Tummers 

Course fees

  • Free for NIG members
  • 500,- for non-members from an NIG member institution
  • 750,- for third parties

Governments and public organizations often use behavioral science to tackle societal problems. For instance, Utrecht University has made a vegetarian lunch the default choice. If you want meat, you have to order it. This can reduce meat consumption. Other examples where behavioral science is used include using defaults to increase the number of organ donations and lowering administrative burdens to help citizens.

This course analyzes how behavioral science can be used in public policy and administration. You will discuss whether behavioral interventions are effective (does it work?), but also whether and when it is appropriate (do citizens accept them?) and ethical (should government do it?). Furthermore, you will also learn how to apply insights from behavioral public administration in your PhD project.

After this course, you can:

  • Understand concepts and debates in behavioral public administration and related disciplines such as political psychology and behavioral economics.
  • Critically reflect on the effectiveness, appropriateness, and ethics of changing the behavior of public sector workers and citizens.
  • Use theories and methods of behavioral public administration in your PhD project.



The preparation consists of a short paper where you reflect on how to use behavioral public administration in your PhD research. You will present this paper during the course. To have a lively conversation and maximize learning, we ask you to read the required reading material and be present during all three days.

Literature includes (provisional reading list, the final list will be circulated four weeks before the start of the course):

  • Benartzi, S., Beshears, J., Milkman, K. L., Sunstein, C. R., Thaler, R. H., Shankar, M., … & Galing, S. (2017). Should governments invest more in nudging? Psychological science, 28(8), 1041-1055.
  • Grimmelikhuijsen, Stephan, Jilke, Sebastian, Olsen, Asmus and Lars Tummers. (2017). Behavioral Public Administration: Combining Insights from Public Administration and Psychology. Public Administration Review, 77(1): 45-56.
  • Hallsworth, M. (2023). A manifesto for applying behavioural science. Nature Human Behaviour, 1-13.

You will pass this course if – within the stated deadlines – you submit a short paper (1,000 words) where you reflect on how to use behavioral public administration in your PhD research, present this paper during the course, and are present and actively participate during the three days. We are looking forward to a learn together.