Behavioural Science Centre

Alex Woods

Prof Liam Delaney
Director

Prof Alex Wood
Director
Dr Michael Daly
Senior Lecturer
Dr David Comerford
Lecturer
Simon McCabe
Seda Erdem Christopher Boyce Andy Siddaway

Dr Simon McCabe
Lecturer

Dr Seda Erdem
Lecturer

Dr Christopher Boyce
Research Fellow

Dr Andy Siddaway
Research Fellow

Leonhard Lades Dr Jody Quigley Mark Egan
Dr Leonhard Lades
Research Fellow

Dr Jody Quigley
Research Assistant

Marie Briguglio
PhD Student

Mark Egan
PhD Student
Philip Newall Craig Anderson

Philip Warren Newall
PhD Student

Bernardo Nunes
PhD Student

Jovan Vojnovic
PhD Student
Craig Anderson
PhD Student

Victoria Mousteri

Robert Murphy

Victoria Mousteri
PhD Student

Robert Murphy
PhD Student

Formed in 2012, the Behavioural Science Centre, directed by Professor Liam Delaney (an economist) and Professor Alex Wood (a psychologist), integrates approaches from their disciplines to better understand connections between economic, psychological, and health outcomes and their determinants. This page provides an introduction to the centre and the links to the left give more specific information as well as more general information about the field for interested readers.

Behavioural science is the study of individuals and their interactions (exemplified by psychology). Based in Stirling Management School, the Behavioural Science Centre integrates this approach with social science, the study of the structure of organisations and societies (exemplified by economics and management). Such integrations can lead to revolutionary ways of understanding economics and organisations through incorporating a better understanding of the composing individuals. Although there have been many calls for such integration - and the award of a Nobel Prize for starting these - genuinely integrative approaches remain relatively rare. We are the only specialist centre within Scotland and one of the few within Europe. We are distinctive from other key UK centres through a primary focus on individual differences, health, and well-being, rather than cognitive science. We collaborate strongly with those other institutions to join our research.

Practical examples of questions the Behavioural Science Centre are answering include:

(1) why people make poor decisions

(2) why people react differently to life events

(3) what leads people to accept constitutional change

(4) how early life self-control links to later health outcomes

(5) why socio-economic status is linked to obesity

(6) how emotions relate to physical health

(7) how suicidality and self-harm can be measured

(8) how healthcare interventions affect different individuals

(9) how Winter Fuel Payments relate to health of UK households

(10) what are the consequences of unemployment

(11) how the transition from education to work affects well-being

(12) how to improve pension savings

We are interested in integrating behavioural science into all of the social sciences. One specific area in which we operate is behavioural economics. This is a movement within economics to change the core assumptions on which the profession was traditionally (and is still largely) based; that people make decisions based on (a) all and only relevant information, (b) totally stable preferences, and (c) logical maximisation of benefit. Errors, where they do occur, are not systematic, and are corrected by market forces. Behavioural economics develops and utilises research from the behavioural sciences to challenge these assumptions and rebuild economics on a more stable footing which acknowledges people are complex psychological beings for whom the traditional assumptions do not hold. One specific subset of behavioural economics concerns Nudges. A nudge is a policy that incentivises optimal behaviour without forcing the individual to act in a certain way. Normally this is achieved through changing the context in which the decision is made in order to target peoples natural ways for processing information. We maintain an extensive database of Nudges for people interested in this area, and some of our work focuses on developing, applying, and considering the ethics of these.

Putting the research into practice

Integrating behavioural science with macroeconomic, organisational, and population health policy can bring about rapid improvements in operation and efficiency. The ideas developed in the field are increasingly being implemented in the design of new policies, across a range of areas from pension saving to energy. We have strong links with a range of organisations including Gallup Europe and the Scottish Government and work actively with many others to put the novel observations from the field into practice. Other organisations with whom our members have recently worked include Health Services Executive, Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs (HMRC), the Irish Higher Education Authority, the Irish Universities Association, Mater Hospital, St Vincent’s Hospital, UCL Consultants, and Unilever, amongst others. We always welcome any formal or informal contact from organisations interested in our approach, and we have a variety of partnership and consultancy models.

Educational and training

The Behavioural Science Centre provides educational programmes to a variety of audiences.

Taught Programme: Our flagship taught programme is a year long Master of Science (MSc) in Behavioural Science for Management, providing a very thorough grounding in how the area relates to business and policy through over 240 hours of lectures and seminars and working with one of our research team on major project in the field. For enquiries, please contact Dr Michael Daly.

PhD Research Training: We provide extensive three year (six part time) self-funded doctoral level research training (leading to a PhD specialising in various subjects including behavioural or social science, economics, management, and psychology), with a strong focus on one-to-one genuine mentoring relationships and developing meaningful research and skills training leading to extensive and high quality student lead publications during the period. Please feel free to contact Prof Alex Wood for any interest in this area, as well as seeing his extensive advice to potential students page for more information.

Workshops for Academics, Industrial Leaders, and Policy Makers: We run a regular workshop series showcasing our research and those of key invited speakers. These are open to all and free of charge. Please see our workshop site for more information and watch out for upcoming announcements on our twitter feed.

Bespoke Training and Dissemination. We regularly engage in other dissemination including (a) engagement with the media, with recent appearances on BBC Radio, Time, and the Financial Times, (b) talks at professional meetings, (c) public engagement, and (d) industrial knowledge exchange and training. Please feel free to contact any of our members to discuss their involvement in this capacity.

Getting involved

There are a wide variety of ways to work with us and we always welcome unsolicited enquiries. Please see the sections above if you are interested in our educational or industrial collaboration opportunities. We are happy to be involved in most academic collaborations, please contact the most relevant centre member (pictures at the top of the page) or any one of us. We have a variety of opportunities for key "rising star" or established researchers through post-doctorial funding opportunities and potentially faculty posts. Please do generally feel free to contact us with any ideas you may have if you want to get involved with the centre.

Up to date information

For up to date information about what is going on in the centre please see our Blog and twitter feed.

Selected publications

All of the recent publications from members of the centre are available here. Some key recent papers include:

Aldrovandi, S, Wood, A. M., & Brown, G. D. A. (in press). Social norms and rank-based nudging: Changing willingness to pay for healthy food. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied.

Alquist, J.L., Ainsworth, S.E., Baumeister, R.F., Daly, M., & Stillman, T.F. (2015). The making of might-have-beens: Effects of free will beliefs on counterfactual thinking. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 41, 268-283.

Boyce, C. J., & Wood, A. M. (2011). Personality prior to disability determines adaptation: Agreeable individuals recover lost life satisfaction faster and more completely. Psychological Science, 22, 1397-1402. Request copy

Boyce, C. J., Wood, A. M., Daly, M., & Sedikides, C. (in press). Personality change following unemployment. Journal of Applied Psychology.

Boyce, C. J., Brown, G. D. A., & Moore, S. C. (2010). Money and happiness: Rank of income, not income, affects life satisfaction. Psychological Science, 21, 471-475. Request copy

Boyce, C. J., Wood, A. M., Banks, J., Clark, A. E., & Brown, G. D. (2013). Money, well-being, and loss aversion does an income loss have a greater effect on well-being than an equivalent income gain? Psychological Science, 24, 2557-2562. Request copy

Daly, M., & Delaney, L. (2013). The scarring effect of unemployment throughout adulthood on psychological distress at age 50: Estimates controlling for early adulthood distress and childhood psychological factors. Social Science & Medicine, 80, 19-23. Request copy

Daly, M., Delaney, L., Doran, P., Harmon, C., & MacLachLan, M., (2010). Naturalistic monitoring of the affect-heart rate relationship: A day reconstruction study. Health Psychology, 29, 186-195. Request copy

Daly, M., Delaney, L., Egan, M., & Baumeister, R. F. (in press). Childhood self-control and unemployment throughout the lifespan: evidence from two British cohort studies. Psychological Science.

Daly, M., Egan, M., & O'Reilly, F. (in press). Childhood general cognitive ability predicts leadership role occupancy across life: Evidence from 17,000 cohort study participants. Leadership Quarterly.

Daly, M., Harmon, C., & Delaney, L. (2009). Psychological and biological foundations of time preference. Journal of the European Economic Association, 7, 659-669. Request copy

Daly, M., & MacLachlan, M. (2011). Heredity links natural hazards and human health: Apolipoprotein E gene moderates the health of earthquake survivors. Health Psychology, 30, 228-235.

Delaney, L., Fernihough, A., & Smith, J. P. (2013). Exporting poor health: the Irish in England. Demography, 50.

Delaney, L., McGovern, M., & Smith, J. P. (2011). From Angela's Ashes to the Celtic Tiger: Early life conditions and adult health in Ireland. Journal of Health Economics, 30, 1-10. Request copy

Egan, M., Daly, M., & Delaney, L. (2014). Childhood psychological distress and youth unemployment: Evidence from two British cohort studies. Social Science & Medicine.

Erdem, S., & Rigby, D. (2013). Investigating heterogeneity in the characterization of risks using best worst scaling. Risk Analysis, 33, 1728-1748. Request copy

Geraghty, A. W. A., Wood, A. M., & Hyland, M. E. (2010). Attrition from self-directed interventions: Investigating the relationship between psychological predictors, intervention content and dropout from a body dissatisfaction intervention. Social Science & Medicine, 71, 31-37. Request copy

Johnson, J., Gooding, P., Wood, A. M., & Tarrier, N. (2011). Trait reappraisal amplifies subjective defeat, sadness and negative affect in response to failure versus success in non-clinical and psychosis populations. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 120, 922-934. Request copy

Taylor, P. J., Gooding, P., Wood, A. M., & Tarrier, N. (2011). The role of defeat and entrapment in depression, anxiety, and suicide. Psychological Bulletin, 137, 391-420. Request copy

Ubel, P. A., Comerford, D. A., & Johnson, E. (2015). Healthcare. gov 3.0—Behavioral Economics and Insurance Exchanges. New England Journal of Medicine, 372(8), 695-698.

Van Soest, A., Delaney, L., Harmon, C., Kapteyn, A., & Smith, J. (2011). Validating the use of anchoring vignettes for the correction of response scale differences in subjective questions. Journal of the Royal Statistical Society – Series A, 174, 575-595. Request copy

Collaborators

Dr Julia Allan (University of Aberdeen)

Dr Hilary Bambrick (University of West Sydney)

Prof. James Banks (University of Manchester)

Prof. Roy Baumeister (Florida State University)

Prof. Gordon Brown (University of Warwick)

Prof. Peter Bower (University of Manchester)

Dr Chris Bundy (University of Manchester)

Prof. Rachel Calam (University of Manchester)

Prof. Tarani Chandola (University of Manchester)

Prof. Andrew Clark (Paris School of Economics)

Prof. Phillip Corr (University of East Anglia)

Prof. Thomas Crossley (University of Essex) 

Prof. Nick Chater (University of Warwick)

Dr Orla Doyle (University College Dublin) 

Prof. Graham Dunn (University of Manchester)

Prof. Eamonn Ferguson (University of Nottingham)

Dr Jeff Froh (Hoffstra University)

Prof. Colm Harmon (University of Sydney)

Dr Eibhlin Hudson (Trinity College Dublin) 

Dr Judith Johnson (University of Leeds)

Prof. Stephen Joseph (University of Nottingham)

Prof. Arie Kapteyn (University of Southern California)

Dr Todd Kashdan (George Mason University)

Prof. Erich Kirchler (University of Vienna)

Prof. Alex Linley (Center for Applied Positive Psychology)

Prof. Malcolm MacLachlan (Trinity College Dublin)

Dr Peter Malinowsky (Liverpool John Moores University)

Dr John Maltby (University of Leicester)

Dr Warren Mansell (University of Manchester)

Dr Dirk Mateer (Penn State University)

Dr Marrion McAllister (Cardiff University)

Dr Mark McGovern (Harvard University) 

Dr David McMinn (University of Aberdeen)

Prof. Paul Mills (University of California, San Diago)

Prof. Lawrence Moore (Cardiff University)

Dr Simon Moore (Cardiff University)

Prof. Kevin Munro (University of Manchester)

Dr Simon Murphy (Cardiff University)

Prof. Andrew Oswald (University of Warwick)

Prof. Marjon van der Pol (University of Aberdeen) 

Prof. Nick Powdthavee (London School of Economics)

Dr Jordi Quoidbach (Universitat Pompeu Fabra)

Dr Laura Redwine (University of California, San Diago)

Dr Richard Roche (NUI Maynooth) 

Dr Martin Ryan (Dublin Institute of Technology) 

Prof. Shoshana Shiloh (Tel Aviv University)

Prof. Constantine Sedikidies (University of Southampton)

Prof. James Smith (RAND Corporation)

Prof. Jack Soll (Duke University) 

Prof. Neil Stewart (University of Warwick)

Dr Sara Tai (University of Manchester)

Prof. Nick Tarrier (Institute of Psychiatry, Kings College London)

Prof. Chris Todd (University of Manchester)

Peter Ubel (Duke University)

Dr. Ivo Vlaev (University College London)

Prof. Joachim Winter (Munich University)

© University of Stirling FK9 4LA Scotland UK • Telephone +44 1786 473171 • Scottish Charity No SC011159
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