About the Behavioural Science Centre

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.

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.