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|The Psychologist News - Behavioural insights could save £millions|
Behavioural insights could save £millions
The UK government's Behavioural Insight Team, led by psychology graduate David Halpern, has claimed that hundreds of millions of pounds could be saved using simple, psychologically inspired interventions to reduce fraud, debt and error.
The claims are made in a new report, published in February, that details seven ways public organisations could save money: make it easier for people to fill out forms, including tax returns; highlight key messages early in communications; use personal language; prompt honesty at key moments when people are filling in forms or answering questions; use the influence of social norms by emphasising that most other people behave prosocially; reward desired behaviour; and highlight the risks and impact of dishonesty.
These ideas are being put to the test in eight ongoing trials by the Behavioural Insight Team in partnership with public bodies. For instance, HM Revenue and Customs has experimented with tax reminder letters and found that they seem to be more effective if they include a message saying that the majority of people in the recipient's local area pay their tax on time. A trial with the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency is testing the influence of including a picture of a person's untaxed car in reminder letters. Another with HM Courts and Tribunals Service is testing whether people are more likely to respond to text message reminders to pay fines if the text mentions them by name and states how much they owe.
'This is the first time that the Government has explicitly sought to draw upon behavioural insights to tackle fraud, error and debt in a systematic way,' the report says. 'The insights outlined in this document, applied in a range of different contexts and settings, show that not only is it possible to apply behavioural insights to reduce fraud, error and debt, but also that it can be done in a highly cost-effective way.' cj
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