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Behavioural Science

Formed in 2012, the Behavioural Science Centre, directed by Dr Conny Wollbrant (an economist) integrates approaches from Economics and Psychology to better understand connections between economic, psychological, and health outcomes and their determinants. 

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.

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 Nudge. 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.

Behavioural Science Centre staff

Dr Conny Wollbrant

Director

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Professor Liam Delaney

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Dr Michael Daly

Senior Lecturer

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Dr David Comerford

Lecturer

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Dr Simon McCabe

Assistant Director

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Dr Seda Erdem

Lecturer

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Dr Danny Campbell

Senior Lecturer

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Dr Mirko Moro

Senior Lecturer

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Craig Anderson

Professor Nick Hanley

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 masters programme, MSc Behavioural Science for Management, provides 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 a major project in the field. We're also launching a new masters degree in 2018 – MSc Behavioural Decision Making for Finance. For enquiries, please contact Dr David Comerford.

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. 

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 or any one of us. We have a variety of opportunities for key 'rising star' or established researchers through postdoctoral 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.

  • Selected publications

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

    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.

    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.

    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

    Kocher, M. G., Martinsson, P., Myrseth, K. O. R., & Wollbrant, C. E. (2017). Strong, bold, and kind: Self-control and cooperation in social dilemmas. Experimental Economics, 20(1), 44-69.

    Kocher, Martin G., Martinsson, Peter, Matzat, D., Wollbrant, Conny (2015) The role of beliefs, trust, and risk in contributions to a public good. Journal of Economic Psychology, 51, p. 236-244.

    Martinsson, Peter, Villegas Palacio, Clara, Wollbrant, Conny (2015) Cooperation and social classes: evidence from Colombia. Social Choice and Welfare, 45:4, p. 829-848.

    Martinsson, Peter, Myrseth, Kristian O., Wollbrant, Conny (2014) Social dilemmas: When self-control benefits cooperation. Journal of Economic Psychology, 45.

    Martinsson, Peter, Wollbrant, Conny, Knutsson, Mikael (2013) Do people avoid opportunities to donate? A natural field experiment on recycling and charitable giving. Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization, 93:September, p. 71-77.

    Martinsson, Peter, Myrseth, K. O. R., Wollbrant, Conny (2012) Reconciling pro-social vs. selfish behavior: On the role of self-control. Judgment and Decision Making, 7:3, p. 304-315.

    McCabe S & Arndt J (2016) The psychological threat of mortality and the implications it has for tobacco and alcohol misuse. In: Preedy V (ed.). Neuropathology of Drug Addictions and Substance Misuse, Volume 1: Foundations of Understanding, Tobacco, Alcohol, Cannabinoids and Opioids, Amsterdam: Academic Press, pp. 327-336.

    McCabe S, Arndt J, Goldenberg J, Vess ML, Vail III KE, Gibbons FX & Rogers R (2015) The Effect of Visualizing Healthy Eaters and Mortality Reminders on Nutritious Grocery Purchases: An Integrative Terror Management and Prototype Willingness Analysis, Health Psychology, 34 (3), pp. 279-282.

    McCabe S, Spina M & Arndt J (2016) When existence is not futile: The influence of mortality salience on the longer-is-better effect, British Journal of Social Psychology, 55 (3), pp. 600-611.

    McCabe S, Vail III KE, Arndt J & Goldenberg J (2014) Hails From the Crypt: A Terror Management Health Model Investigation of the Effectiveness of Health-Oriented Versus Celebrity-Oriented Endorsements, Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 40 (3), pp. 289-300.

    McCabe S, Vail III KE, Arndt J & Goldenberg J (2013) Multilayered Meanings in Health Decision Making: A Terror Management Health Model Analysis. In: Hicks JA, Routledge C (ed.). The Experience of Meaning in Life: Classical Perspectives, Emerging Themes, and Controversies, Dordrecht: Springer, pp. 349-362.

    Myrseth, K. O. R., Wollbrant, Conny (2015) Depletion Influences Restraint, But Does It Influence Conflict Identification? Expanding on Osgood and Muraven (2015). Basic and Applied Social Psychology, 37:5, p. 292-293.

    Myrseth, K. O. R., Wollbrant, Conny (2015) Less cognitive conflict does not imply choice of the default option: Commentary on Kieslich and Hilbig (2014). Judgment and Decision Making, 10:3, p. 277-279.

    Myrseth, K. O. R., Wollbrant, Conny (2013) A theory of self-control and naiveté: The blights of willpower and blessings of temptation. Journal of Economic Psychology, 34, p. 8-19.

    Rouder J, Engelhardt C, McCabe S & Morey R (2016) Model comparison in ANOVA, Psychonomic Bulletin and Review, 23 (6), pp. 1779-1786.

    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.

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)

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