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Till Grüne-Yanoff (Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm)
Till Grüne-Yanoff (Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm)

Tue, 22 Nov


Online Lecture

Till Grüne-Yanoff (Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm)

Till Grüne-Yanoff is Professor of Philosophy at the Royal Institute of Technology (KTH) in Stockholm. His research focuses on the philosophy of science, the philosophy of economics and on decision theory.


22 Nov 2022, 15:00 – 17:00 CET

Online Lecture



ABSTRACT. — Behavioral Public Policy (BPP) is often treated as a single kind, as witnessed for example in the popular use of the "nudge" label as encompassing all BPP, but also in the academic discussion of the pros and cons of BPP generally. This has led, firstly, to an unwarranted polarization in the debate; secondly, to a neglect of the context-sensitivity of these pro and con arguments; and thirdly, to a disregard of multiple stable kinds within the BPP category, that could capture these context-sensitivities. Against this uniformity assumption, we have argued that the BPP category contains multiple kinds, distinguished by mechanisms (Grüne-Yanoff and Hertwig 2016; Hertwig and Grüne-Yanoff 2017). Our main argument for this distinction is that there are systematic differences in the context-sensitivity both of the effectiveness and ethical evaluation of these mechanism-based kinds. Specifically, we claim that there are at least two kinds of behavioral policies, nudges and boosts, operating through different kinds of mechanisms. We do not claim, however, that these are the only kinds of BPP. The main purpose of distinguishing kinds of BPP by mechanism is to provide a systematic base for the context-sensitive evaluations of their effectiveness and ethical acceptability, thus overcoming the current polarization. The argument therefore is not directed against nudge-type interventions. Instead, it criticizes those who treat BPP as of one kind, either to universally praise or to universally condemn them. Instead, it is argued that nudge and boost mechanisms have different moderators - thus explaining why the respective policy kinds exhibit different degrees of effectiveness in different contexts and different populations - and that they have different potential side-effects - thus explaining why the respective policy kinds exhibit different degrees of ethical permissibility in different contexts and different populations. Overcoming the polarization, and providing a more powerful tool to analyze which policy kind might fare better (either effectively or morally) in which environment, is what motivates our categorization proposal. The talk begins with sketching the diversity of BPPs and arguing why this diversity matters. It then describes the notion of mechanism used in the analysis. Finally, it develops the distinction between nudges and boosts based on mechanisms and illustrates some of the uses of this categorization, both for evaluations of effectiveness and ethical acceptability.

  • Zoom meeting ID: 614 8076 0079
  • Zoom passcode: CEN22

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