Behavioural science

Behavioural Science (BeSci) is a multidisciplinary approach to the study of human behaviour and decision-making, combining the findings and methods from psychology, neuroscience, and other social sciences.

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What choices are people making?
How are they behaving? Why?

Behavioural scientists ask these questions and design and test solutions based on that understanding.

The Impact and Innovation Unit (IIU) applies insights from BeSci to inform the design and implementation of priority programs, services, and initiatives across government. From improving Canadians’ financial health, to improving environmental outcomes, to slowing the spread of COVID-19, we are leveraging our expertise to drive better outcomes for all Canadians.

Our approach: The behavioural design process

We are data-driven and evidence-based. Testing is integral to how we work. We conduct high-quality research to understand behaviour, and use a variety of rigorous experimental and quasi-experimental approaches to test - and scale - effective solutions.

Our projects often follow a multi-stage process, which we tailor to fit the needs and contexts of each project and partner.

1 Identify

  • Consult with departmental leadership to identify priority target outcomes of interest and key behaviours to target
  • Discuss current approaches and additional opportunities for innovation

2 Understand

  • Conduct initial research (e.g. literature scans, stakeholder interviews) to inform hypotheses of drivers and barriers to behaviours
  • Conduct additional mixed-methods research (e.g. interviews, observations, surveys, and analysis of administrative data) to test hypotheses

3 Design

  • Ideate solutions for confirmed hypotheses, referencing the behavioural science literature
  • Present prototypes of solutions to partners for feedback
  • Iterate to refine solutions and prepare priority solutions for testing

4 Test

  • Prepare plans for experimental or quasi-experimental tests of solutions and analysis of results
  • Implement solutions in line with testing plan
  • Collect data
  • Analyse and present results

5 Scale

  • Prepare plans for scaling (e.g. for broad dissemination of results, preparing policy memos, and supporting other key stakeholders to adapt and adopt provides solutions)
  • Support plan execution

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