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What is the Future of Behavioural Science?

Behavioural science is still a relatively young field, but it has already seen a massive growth and an impressive amount of changes and impact in its young life. Given what we have seen before, what does our Next Gen think comes next? How do they see the future of behavioural science? As always, if you want to read more about the Next Gen, and how they see behavioural science, make sure to check out the previous articles!


Flora Finamor Pfeifer “So far, most applications have focused on what works best on average. I think we will start to see a movement towards individualized nudges. Data science enables us to personalize what intervention suits best a specific public. Already established individualized communication channels enable to quickly scale such interventions and to segment its delivery.

I also believe the methodological issues I mentioned above are starting to come to the attention of academics and practitioners, so we might see broader applications of other theoretical areas that explain behavior (psychology, anthropology, etc.), other kinds of interventions (such as boosts, sludges, shoves, etc.), better designed RCTs (with more attention to power, for example), and further replications in diverse countries and societies.”


Rebecca Amo “Behavioural science is definitely not the sole solution to human problems today but rather, it offers a complementing thought-provoking process to what we have been applying so far across board (mostly thinking human beings are rational). It brings in a more eclectic and authentic alchemy that gives light to the “real why” of human behaviour showing that human systematically make choices that defy logic.”


Robert Haisfield “There’s this strange idea based in academia that we can come to generalizable truths by removing aspects of context and randomizing samples to remove aspects of the individual. How are we going to assume that those findings will apply to specific and dynamic contexts/people?

My hope is that behavioral science ventures into taking more methods for studying people seriously. Experiments are one tool, but so is qualitative data analysis, machine learning, observation, and more. Product design could even become a medium for meaningfully studying a target population within a context you care about so they voluntarily share information through their behavior.

I want to see insights accumulate towards our understanding of behavior through mixed methods and collective sensemaking that transcends our own discipline. If we can nail that, then the specifics of what we study will take care of itself.”


Sarah Bowen “Hey, I know I’m an economist by trade – but I don’t dabble in predictions.”


Gabriella Stuart “I think there is immense potential in the future of behavioural science and that we really have just seen the beginning. I believe that the need for expertise in human behaviour will continue to increase dramatically as the necessity of changing human behaviour is key in today’s society, which the COVID-19 outbreak is one evident example of. I predict that behavioural scientists will be accredited an increasing influence in businesses, organizations and governments and that they will have a significant impact on decision-making. However, as discussed, many challenges and milestones await our field, but I am confident we will overcome these as long as there is a continuous ambition and an endeavor to evolve, refine and improve it.”


Garrett Meccariello “I want to liken behavioral science to CPR (Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation). There was a time when only lifeguards and trained medical personnel knew the skill. Now, most common folk have a basic understanding of CPR, and how to handle themselves in an emergency. Behavioral science is not that dramatic, or important to sustaining life, but the metaphor still holds. We’ll soon start to see everyone applying behavioral principles in various domains. Behavioral science may even become a topic in grade school where core principles are applied to other subjects. Once we’ve democratized the knowledge and learnings that continue to come to light, we’ll see the future change and shift to a new, to be determined paradigm.”


Kathryn Ambroze “My hope is that behavioral science continues educate individuals about why we act and react the way we do. From a large scale, I believe social norms will inform organizational practices to better serve those who make up the group. Furthermore, I believe the consumer will become more informed as behavioral science practices are normalized. I am eager to continue to dedicate my energy and inquisitiveness to contributing valuable research that I am both passionate and proud to investigate within this field.”


Peter Judodihardjo “I think from a research perspective, the merging of behavioural and data science is the most exciting. A recent talk I watched at nudgestock, from the chief psychologist at the infamous Cambridge Analytica, is what confirmed this to be the most powerful future step for the discipline. What this data allows, I suspect, is greater personalization of our current insights. Taking theories that apply fairly well to a general populous and making them even more powerful by tailoring specific behavioural interventions based personal traits, preferences and demographics. That could increase the efficacy of behavioural science work by untold amounts. A little sinister sounding, I know, but behavioural science has always been a power that could be used for good or evil hasn’t it? Think Spiderman 😉.”


Natasha Oza “I think the future of behavioural science holds many, many exciting opportunities. Research and interventions will become more inclusive and targeted and teams working to address challenges will become more interdisciplinary.

More specifically, given the omnipresent role it’s taken in our daily lives, I see technology being integrated and leveraged to design interventions that aren’t restricted by physical or geographical limitations. Take the example of education - from in-person lectures to recorded videos (sometimes pandemic-induced) to illustrated and animated content to virtual reality. It’s become more immersive, more multisensory and, hopefully, more effective. It’s also pushed the boundaries of what is deemed accessible to those who don’t reside in cities - a necessity when trying to achieve impact at scale.

Another advantage of putting technology at the forefront of interventions is that it has the power to help shift our focus from the immediate one or two good choices to facilitating more long term, sustainable solutions.

Behavioural science is a field that’s about continuous learning. It’s about building on original research to make it more precise and accurate - enabling insights and interventions that are far more powerful.”


Sofia Mardiaga “I feel the combination of artificial intelligence and behavioural insights, combined with the new data that we are generating through our daily usage of technology in all its incarnations provides some of the most interesting directions and questions for the field now. As Harari put it, we’re now hackable animals. What companies and governments do with this in the next decades can change society as we know it. As scientists we can have a key role to play there and steer this as much as possible for good.

New technologies like AR, VR, and BCI (biometrics in general) are also providing very interesting environments and possibilities for the discipline to explore human behaviour like never before. It’s a good time to be a behavioural scientist. Possibly even better times are coming up :) !”


If you'd like to read more about the amazing people from the Next Gen and their thoughts and idea, make sure to read the previous next gen articles!

  • Article 1 introduces the Next Gen,

  • article 2 finds out why they went into behavioural science,

  • article 3 finds out HOW they got into behavioural science,

  • article 4 shows how they actually apply behavioural science,

  • article 5 tells you what our new behavioural scientists actually want from behavioural science,

  • article 6 tells you about the skills that make for a great behavioural scientist, article 7 outlines what the Next Gen thinks the most impressive developments are in behavioural science so far, and

  • article 8 shows critical analyses from our Next Gen about what they think is lacking in behavioural science!

All these topics are obviously too good to miss! But before I end this series, I do want to give massive thanks to my interviewees. And thank you, the reader, for your time as well. In article 1 you can find the social media links to all the amazing members of the Next Gen, they are absolutely incredible!


Behavioural Science

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