Viewing archives for Policy And Interventions

Recognizing and correcting positive bias: The salient victim effect

Emily M. Zitek, Laura M. Giurgeand Isaac H. Smith


People seem to have stronger disapproving reactions when they have unfairly suffered from bias than when they have unfairly benefited from it (i.e., they seem less concerned when they have experienced positive bias). Is this because people do not care about the consequences of bias if it has positively affected them, or is it because they fail to notice positive bias? We argue that it is the latter, and that increasing awareness of a victim who has been harmed can “remove the blinders” of the beneficiary of bias. Across seven pre-registered studies of American participants, we tested the effect of a salient victim on people who have experienced positive bias. Our results show that when a victim has been made salient, beneficiaries of bias are more likely to recognize and condemn the positive bias, and they are also more likely to act to correct it. We found this salient victim effect when people reflected on their own positive treatment in society, when they benefited from favoritism in interpersonal interactions, and when they imagined benefiting from nepotism. The effect emerged with both direct and indirect manipulations of the victim. Moreover, the presence of a salient victim spurred more action in those who experienced positive bias even when there was a personal cost. We discuss the contributions of our research to the fairness, morality, and bias literatures.

Nudges can be both autonomy-preserving and effective: evidence from a survey and quasi-field experiment

Henrico van Roekel, Laura M. Giurge, Carina Schott and Lars Tummers


Nudges are widely employed tools within organizations, but they are often criticized for harming autonomy and for being ineffective. We assess these two criticisms simultaneously: can nudges be both autonomy-preserving and effective in changing behavior? We developed three nudges – an opinion leader nudge, a rule-of-thumb and self-nudges – to reduce a particularly sticky behavior: email use. In a survey experiment of 4,112 healthcare employees, we tested their effect on perceived autonomy and subjective effectiveness. We also tested traditional policy instruments for comparison. Next, to assess objective effectiveness, we conducted a quasi-field experiment in a large healthcare organization with an estimate of 1,189 active email users. We found that each nudge in isolation, but especially when combined, was perceived to be both autonomy-preserving and effective, and more so than traditional policy instruments like an access limit or a monetary reward. We also found some evidence that the combination of all nudges decreased actual email use. This paper advances the literature by showing how innovations in nudge design improve nudges’ ability to be autonomy-preserving and effective.

Working during non-standard work time undermines intrinsic motivation

Laura M. Giurge and Kaitlin Woolley


How do people’s perceptions about when they work affect their intrinsic motivation? We find that working during non-standard work time (weekends/holidays) versus standard work time (Monday-Friday, 9-to-5) undermines people’s intrinsic motivation for their professional and academic pursuits. Working during non-standard work time decreases intrinsic motivation by causing people to consider better uses of their time. That is, people generate more upward counterfactual thoughts, which mediates the effect of work time on reduced intrinsic motivation. As a causal test of this process, increasing consideration of upward counterfactuals during standard work time reduces intrinsic motivation, whereas decreasing consideration of upward counterfactuals during non-standard work time helps employees and students maintain intrinsic motivation for their professional and academic pursuits. Overall, we identify a novel determinant of intrinsic motivation and address a real challenge many people face: How changing work schedules affect interest and enjoyment of work, with important consequences for work outcomes.

Non-Positive Experiences Encountered by Pupils During Participation in a Mindfulness-Informed School-Based Intervention

Edward J. Miller, Catherine Crane, Emma Medlicott, James Robson and Laura Taylor


Mindfulness-informed school-based mental health curricula show much promise in cultivating a positive school climate which supports the well-being and mental health of pupils and staff. However, non-positive pupil outcomes and experiences of school-based mental health interventions are often under-recognised and under-reported. This study sought to capture non-positive pupil experiences of a popular mindfulness-informed curriculum. Some pupils across all schools in the study described non-positive experiences, including having troubling thoughts and emotions, and not finding the programme effective. Contexts surrounding these experiences are explored and linked to existing literature, and subsequent recommendations for improvements are made, including the importance of having clear programme structure, definitions and aims, acknowledging and accommodating fidelity issues as best as possible, and better highlighting the potential for non-positive experiences and how they may be reduced.

Wellbeing: Science and Policy

Richard Layard and Jan-Emmanuel De Neve

What produces a happy society and a happy life? Thanks to the new science of wellbeing, we can now answer this question using state-of-the-art empirical evidence. This transforms our ability to base our decisions on the outcomes that matter most, namely the wellbeing of us all including future generations. Written by two of the world’s leading experts on the economics of wellbeing, this book shows how wellbeing can be measured, what causes it and how it can be improved. Its findings are profoundly relevant to all social sciences, including psychology, economics, politics, behavioural science and sociology. A field-defining text on a new science that aims to span the whole of human life, this will be an invaluable resource for undergraduate and graduate students, policy-makers and employers, who can apply its insights in their professional and private lives. This title is also available as Open Access on Cambridge Core.

Moral Uncertainty, Proportionality and Bargaining

Patrick Kaczmarek, Harry R. Lloyd and Michael Plant


As well as disagreeing about how much one should donate to charity, moral theories also disagree about where one should donate. In light of this disagreement, how should the morally uncertain philanthropist allocate her donations? In many cases, one intuitively attractive option is for the philanthropist to split her donations across all of the charities that are recommended by moral views in which she has positive credence, with each charity’s share being proportional to her credence in the moral theories that recommend that particular charity. Despite the fact that something like this approach is already being used by real-world philanthropists to distribute billions of dollars of donations, it is not supported by any of the approaches to moral uncertainty that have been proposed thus-far in the philosophical literature. In this paper, we will develop a bargaining-based approach to moral uncertainty that honors the proportionality intuition in favor of splitting one’s donations. We also show how this bargaining-based approach has several further advantages over the best alternative proposals.

Creating Strategic Wellbeing at Work

Prof Sir Cary Cooper (Manchester) sparked a lively discussion on how to create a strategic framework for wellbeing at work at the latest of the Wellbeing Research Centre’s Seminar Series.

Having founded the National Forum for Health and Wellbeing at Work in 2015, Sir Cary shared ideas on the need for board-level buy-in, what policymakers can learn from the Gender Pay Gap, and how further research into both individual-level and organisation-level wellbeing interventions is required.

Watch the full presentation on the Centre’s YouTube channel.

Make people happier – not just wealthier and healthier


“Basically, economists wanted to be more scientific,” explained Michael Plant, who leads the Happier Lives Institute. “They thought something only counts as science if it’s objectively measurable. Feelings aren’t objectively measurable, therefore they are not science.”

So economists turned away from squishy concepts like happiness and toward objective proxies for well-being, like GDP. In the postwar period, GDP became the go-to way for measuring well-being, even though the concept’s inventor, Simon Kuznets, warned that “the welfare of a nation can scarcely be inferred from a measurement of national income.”

Labour Law, Employees’ Capability for Voice, and Wellbeing: A Framework for Evaluation

Cherise Regier

Labour power has significantly declined across affluent democracies in recent decades, resulting in a widening scale of power inequality within the contemporary employment relationship. Employee voice is a key component of labour power that represents a human capability according to Amartya Sen’s conceptualisation: a real freedom to achieve states of being that one has reason to value. Employees deficient in the capability for voice lack sufficient bargaining power to influence workplace decision-making, which threatens their wellbeing by increasing their risk of exposure to work-related stressors and limiting their opportunities to improve their welfare. In this article, employee voice legislation is argued to be a necessary social conversion factor of employees’ capability for voice that can promote further advantage. However, research assessing its effectiveness at enhancing wellbeing is greatly limited due to an over reliance on neoliberal and new institutional forms of economic analysis that reveal little about the quality of employees’ lives. A comprehensive framework for evaluation based on Sen’s capability approach is proposed that when operationalised for empirical analysis, can advance our understanding of employee wellbeing in the twenty-first century.

Can tracking happiness improve your wellbeing?


Plant (“an old-fashioned utilitarian”) is pragmatic in his approach. He argues that improving lives can be as important as saving them. Research by the Institute has concluded that spending $1,000 on group therapy in low-income countries—the Institute advocates for a charity called StrongMinds—is a more cost-effective way to improve wellbeing than investing in mosquito nets.