EU Science Hub

Behavioural Insights

What are behavioural insights?

Behavioural insights gather contributions from various disciplines of behavioural sciences such as behavioural economics, social and cognitive psychology, and anthropology. The Joint Research Centre (JRC) uses insights from these different disciplines to support EU policy-making by identifying behavioural elements in policies and proposing behavioural levers to increase their effectiveness.

Why are behavioural insights relevant for policy?

Policy-making sometimes relies on assumptions regarding people’s reactions to policies, which do not take into account how people really behave. For instance, consumers are not always able and willing to analyse large amounts of information before signing a contract or, when faced with too much choice, willing to make active choices in their own self-interest. Behavioural insights provide empirical evidence that allows anticipating how people will react to policy options. Consider for example the EU energy label on electric appliances: behavioural insights were used to test different ways of presenting energy consumption to ensure that consumers understand these labels, in order to help them make better-informed choices, which could save energy and money. 

What does the JRC do?

The JRC’s activities related to behavioural insights revolve around four axes:

1.Awareness-raising and training

Promoting the embedding of behavioural insights throughout the EU policy cycle is one important mission of the JRC. This is done through awareness-raising and exploratory workshops within the European Commission, but also by providing training in behavioural sciences to EU policy-makers.

2.Scientific advice

The JRC provides scientific advice, including methodological support, to the behavioural studies and market studies that the European Commission runs through contractors.

3.Networking and knowledge sharing between Member States

One of the roles of the JRC is to encourage networking and knowledge sharing between relevant national authorities in charge of applying behavioural insights to policy-making. To that end, it monitors the application of behavioural insights in European countries and organises workshops to connect practitioners in the field.

4.Behavioural research

The JRC conducts in-house behavioural research in policy areas such as health, sustainability, cybersecurity, and gender equality.

Please visit the EU Policy Lab blog to discover our team and find out more about our ongoing activities.