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Behavioral Economics

Behavioral economics is a powerful, evidence-based tool for both understanding and influencing human behavior in individuals, groups, and institutions. With its focus on the social, cognitive, and emotional factors that affect personal economic decisions, it is rapidly gaining attention as an innovative opportunity to help improve consumer choices and behaviors. Leaders in the field include Nobel Prize winner Daniel Kahneman, and Richard Thaler, as well as Cass Sunstein, who have published work on building choice architecture to promote certain decisions through “nudges.”

The Vitality Institute supports the use of principles of behavioral economics to promote healthy habits. These include specific behaviors such as smoking cessation, healthier eating and weight loss, and medication adherence through financial incentives, lotteries, choice architecture, and framing.

The Evidence

Innovative Business Approaches for Incenting Health Promotion in Sub-Saharan Africa: Progress and Persisting Challenges

Non-communicable chronic diseases related to behaviors such as tobacco use, overeating, excess alcohol intake and physical inactivity account for increasing morbidity and mortality in South Africa. Over the last 15 years, Discovery Health, the largest... More »

Progress in Cardiovascular Diseases | October 11, 2013

Healthy Food Pre-Commitment

We tested a voluntary self-control commitment device to help grocery shoppers make healthier food purchases. Participants, who were already enrolled in a large-scale incentive program that discounts the price of eligible groceries by 25%, were... More »

Psychological Science | February 7, 2014