Sunday, December 17, 2017

2017 Update

Just a brief note of thanks for all the interactions in the first year of our new programme in Dublin. We have now got a very solid research team in UCD. This year we held many events internally and externally, including with some of the leading thinkers in this area globally. We also funded our first major projects in this area. Our new MSc in Behavioural Economics began in September with a very strong group of students and it is recruiting solidly for 2018/2019 also. We have active collaborations now also with many policy partners and we will look to formalise this more in the New Year. See this link for the preliminary list of Wednesday sessions for next term and I will add more shortly. These sessions have been very useful in connecting the research group and students to the wider world and I hope it will be an engine room for the development of this area in Ireland more generally.

In 2018, we will roll out new modules in behavioural public policy and experimental behavioural economics. We will also have a full programme of external events, details of which will be made available shortly, including monthly sessions of the Irish behavioural science and policy network. We are also in the process of building a physical experimental laboratory space in Dublin and I look forward to talking to people more about that. We will also make preparations for hosting the 44th annual IAREP conference in Dublin in September. 2019. Mostly, look forward to developing a stream of interesting projects across environmental policy, health, and financial decision making, with particular emphasis on measurement foundations, evaluation methods, and ethics. I hope the team will build up well during the year and we already have some interesting things to announce relatively early in the New Year. We will also put up a full website toward the middle of the next academic term.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Wednesday Weekly Sessions

We host a weekly session from 930am to 1030am on Wednesday mornings to bring our researchers and students together with external stakeholders interested in this area. As well as knowledge exchange, we also hope that students will be encouraged to apply some of their material to direct policy questions. Below is current schedule. We welcome expressions of interest.

Spring (2018 - in progress and indicative titles) 

24th January: Anamaria Vrabie (The New School): "Behavioural Economics and Urban Design". 

31st January: Cliona Kelly (UCD) "Behavioural Law and Economics". 

7th February: Derville Rowland, Director General, Financial Conduct at the Central Bank. 

14th February: Aisling NĂ­ Chonaire: Lead Research Advisor, Behavioural Insights Team. 

21st February: Faisal Naru (OECD): "Behavioural Economics and Public Policy". 

28th February: Doris Laepple (NUIG): "Behavioural Experiments in Agricultural Economics". 

7th March: 

14th March: 

21st March: 

28th March: 

4th April: Liam Delaney and Till Weber (UCD): "New Facility for Behavioural and Experimental Economics at UCD". 

11th April: 

18th April: Deirdre Robertson (ESRI): "Behavioural Economics and Regulation".

25 April:  

Autumn 2017 

27th September: Simon Rafferty (EPA) "Behavioural Economics and Environmental Policy" and Patricia Harris (HSA): "Reducing Work Accidents in Ireland"

4th October: Clare Delargy (BIT): "Behavioural Insights Team and Public Policy".

11th October: Aine Lyng and Ronan Murphy (NCCP): "Cancer Prevention"

18th October: Cathal Fitzgerald (DETI): "Brexit and Firm Decision Making; Behavioural Economics of Innovation".

25th October: Till Weber (Nottingham): "Experimental Methods and Behavioural Economics".

1st November: Leonhard Lades (UCD and EnvEcon): "Naturalistic Monitoring of Human Preferences and Behaviour".

8th November: Michael Daly (UCD and Stirling): "Self-control and Health".

15 November: Orla Doyle (UCD): "Behavioural Economics and Early Childhood Intervention".

22nd November: Kenneth Devine (Central Bank of Ireland): "Behavioural Economics and Financial Decision Making".

29th November: Keith Walsh (Revenue): "Behavioural Economics and Tax Administration".

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Richard Thaler Nobel Lecture

See below for Richard Thaler's Nobel speech. Congratulations to Prof Thaler and thanks to him for his intellectual leadership over the last decades.

Economics and Qualitative Research

Economics is mostly a quantitative discipline from the basic undergraduate principles courses to the most recent editions of the top journals. The extent to which economics students should be exposed to qualitative research methods is being debated in various ways in the UK, particularly in the context of the ESRC postgraduate training guidelines, that stipulate that all ESRC-funded postgraduates should receive training in both quantitative and qualitative research methods.

There a plethora of cultural, philosophical, and practical barriers to integrating such methodologies into mainstream economics. Many economists will object that the strength of economics has been the ability to generate testable predictions from rigorous mathematical theoretical models. Others might simply point to the expectations of students arriving onto graduate Economics programme that they will be provided with the most rigorous quantitative tools to perform modern economic analysis. Having said that, Economists are increasingly become involved in real-world field trials, where an element of qualitative research is necessary to understand the process and potentially also the mechanism of the interventions and policies being tested. Professional economists in this context will increasingly be required to understand, at least, how to intelligently consume such information.

There have also been some strong precedents for the use of qualitative research methods in Economics. Truman Bewley's famous work on why wages don't fall during a recession is one example of a well-regarded Economics work that came from structured interviews with business decision makers. More generally, the potential for qualitative research to provide greater understanding of the nature of various types of economic phenomena needs to be discussed in greater depth.

Thanks to Jeff Round (@unhealthyecon on twitter) for recommending the recently released "Qualitative Methods for Health Economics".

I will use this post to keep track of some useful references on qualitative research in Economics. Suggestions and comments welcome.

The review paper below provides a useful overview of qualitative and mixed methodological designs that might be useful in Economics.
Starr (2014). Qualitative and mixed-methods research in economics: surprising growth, promising future. Journal of Economic Surveys, Volume 28, Issue 2,  Pages 238–264.
Qualitative research in economics has traditionally been unimportant compared to quantitative work. Yet there has been a small explosion in use of quantitative approaches in the past 10–15 years, including ‘mixed-methods’ projects which usequalitative and quantitative methods in combination. This paper surveys the growing use of qualitative methods in economics and closely related fields, aiming to provide economists with a useful roadmap through major sets of qualitativemethods and how and why they are used. We review the growing body of economic research using qualitative approaches, emphasizing the gains from using qualitative- or mixed-methods over traditional ‘closed-ended’ approaches. It is argued that, although qualitative methods are often portrayed as less reliable, less accurate, less powerful and/or less credible than quantitative methods, in fact, the two sets of methods have their own strengths, and how much can be learned from one type of method or the other depends on specific issues that arise in studying the topic of interest. The central message of the paper is that well-done qualitative work can provide scientifically valuable and intellectually helpful ways of adding to the stock of economic knowledge, especially when applied to research questions for which they are well suited.
The chapter "Does Qualitative Research fit in Economics?" is also worth reading.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Professor Kevin Volpp at NUI Galway

HEPAC Seminar

Speaker: Professor Kevin Volpp, University of Pennsylvania,

Title: Behavioral Economics and Health

Venue: AMB_G065 (Psychology Building)

Time: December 7, 4.30 – 6.00

Kevin Volpp, University of Pennsylvania, is the Janet and John Haas President’s Distinguished Professor of Medicine and Medical Ethics and Policy at the Perelman School of Medicine and Health Care Management at the Wharton School. He is also the founding Director of the Center for Health Incentives and Behavioral Economics (CHIBE), Vice Chairman for Health Policy for the Department of Medical Ethics and Policy, and Director (with Karen Glanz) of the Penn CDC Prevention Research Center.

Dr. Volpp’s work focuses on developing and testing innovative ways of applying insights from behavioral economics in improving patient health behavior and affecting provider performance. He has done work with a variety of employers, insurers, health systems, and consumer companies in testing the effectiveness of different behavioral economic strategies in addressing tobacco dependence, obesity, and medication non-adherence. He has competitively been awarded more than $60 million to lead or co-lead studies funded by the NIH; the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation; the CDC; VA Health Services Research and Development; Robert Wood Johnson Foundation; the Hewlett Foundation; the Commonwealth Foundation; the Aetna Foundation; Mckinsey; CVS Caremark; Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield; Hawaii Medical Services Association; Merck; Humana; Aramark; Weight Watchers; and Discovery (South Africa).

His work earned him the 2015 Matilda White Riley Award, issued by the National Institutes of Health Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research (OBSSR). The Matilda White Riley Award is given in recognition of an outstanding behavioral or social scientist whose research has contributed to both the deepening of knowledge and its application in a manner that furthers NIH’s mission of improving health.

See or for more details about Kevin’s work. An excellent overview of his work including an interview with Kevin is available at

Professor Volpp is visiting Galway to speak at the MedTech Rising conference that will take place at the Radisson Hotel on December 6 and 7. See for more details.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Assistant Professorships in Economics at UCD

Full details here - Several posts and hiring in all areas.  

Applications are invited for positions as Lecturer\Assistant Professor in the UCD School of Economics. Applicants must have an active research track record and be an effective communicator capable of excellence in teaching at undergraduate and postgraduate levels. Applications from all fields of Economics are welcomed though priority for one of the positions will be given to applicants with expertise in macroeconomics, financial economics or econometrics.

Note: Representatives of the School of Economics will be available to meet with potential candidates at the ASSA Meetings in Philadelphia over January 5-7, 2018 and at the RES PhD Meetings in London over 19-20 December, 2017. Please contact Professor Karl Whelan, Head of the School of Economics ( for further information.

95 Lecturer/Assistant Professor above the bar Salary Scale: €51,807 - €79,194 per annum

Appointment will be made on scale and in accordance with the Department of Finance guidelines

Closing Date: 17:00hrs (local Irish Time) on Wednesday, 10 January 2018

Applications must be submitted by the closing date and time specified. Any applications which are still in progress at the closing time of 17:00hrs (Local Irish Time) on the specified closing date will be cancelled automatically by the system. UCD do not accept late applications.

Prior to application, further information (including application procedure) should be obtained from the UCD Job Vacancies website:

Wednesday, November 08, 2017

PhD and Postdoctoral Research Areas: Funding and Indicative Projects

Our research group in UCD seeks to recruit PhD students and postdoctoral researchers in the area of behavioural economics. While we will consider applications across a wide range of areas, a particular focus of our work is on the development of naturalistic methods such as experience sampling and day reconstruction in behavioural economics to study real-world decision making. Those interested in conducting a PhD in this area should contact Liam Delaney at Postdoctoral funding opportunities are currently available through the Irish Research Council, and we also aim to advertise more posts during the upcoming year. Indicative projects are below but we would work with any potential applicant to craft their own application. 

Links to Applications 

IRC Postdoctoral Fellowships -

Naturalistic monitoring and behavioural economics

Behavioural economics has identified a multitude of decision making biases and these insights have had a substantial influence on economic theory as well as public policy making. At the same time, researchers in various fields have begun to measure behaviour and experiences in the real world using naturalistic monitoring tools such as experience sampling and the Day Reconstruction Method (DRM). Our research group aims to combine these areas and investigate behavioural economic concepts “in the wild”. This can be done in observational studies, field experiments, or natural experiments. For a description of the DRM click here and here and for a recent application of the method to study self-control click here. Indicative projects using naturalistic monitoring are below.

Indicative Projects 

Self-control and everyday job search

This project uses naturalistic monitoring to better understand the determinants of job search intensity. Since job search has immediate costs and delayed benefits, the project will focus on the economic and psychological literatures on inter-temporal choice and self-control. The project will explore whether low levels of job search are related to self-control problems and identify behavioural interventions that can help job seekers to overcome self-control problems. Additionally, the project will investigate the momentary experiences job seekers feel in their everyday lives and identify situational factors that influence these experiences.

Prospect theory in the wild

Prospect theory is one of the most popular models in behavioural economics. This project uses naturalistic monitoring tools in order to measure whether people use reference points in their everyday lives, and whether negative deviations from these reference points loom larger than positive ones. The project builds on Boyce et al.’s (2013) finding that losses in income have a larger effect on evaluative subjective well-being than equivalent income gains, and tests whether similar patterns can be observed for experienced subjective well-being in everyday life. The project also investigates the effects of loss aversion on decision making in everyday life and tests whether anticipated losses or anticipated regret predict everyday decisions more effectively.

Social preferences in the wild

Humans are social, as economists have learned from experimental settings such as Dictator, Ultimatum, and Public Good Games. This project tests the external validity of these experimental lab measures of social preferences by investigating whether the lab measures correlate with social behaviours in everyday life.

Identity economics in the wild

Many economically relevant decisions are influenced by self-image considerations and thoughts about who we are, which social categories we identify with, and which norms we should adhere to. Akerlof and Kranton (2010) introduce the concept of identity to economics, and this project aims to test how identity considerations shape the experiences and behaviours in peoples’ everyday lives.

Everyday Consumption

This project combines the DRM with a spending diary. The spending diary will provide information about what individuals spend money for and the DRM will help to understand why people spend the money. For example, the project can test whether online shopping is particularly prevalent when individuals are tired and exhausted as has been shown in laboratory experiments before. The project will map subjective preferences to consumption decisions and investigate differences in this mapping across the socio-economic spectrum.

Sustainable travel mode choices

The transport choices people make in their everyday lives are an important contributor to individual quality of life as well as an important influence on the global climate. Behavioural economics and happiness research suggest that many situational factors can affect peoples’ decisions to take the car, bus, train, bike, or other forms of transport. This project will develop and evaluate behaviourally-informed policy interventions that aim to facilitate sustainable travel mode choices.

The effects of smartphones on decision making in everyday life

Smartphones have become an essential part of our everyday lives, and recent research has explored the associations between smartphone use and momentary subjective well-being. This project aims to explain the high use of smartphones using behavioural economics concepts (e.g. visceral influences, self-control, social preferences) and identify the consequences of smartphone use for everyday decision making. The project will test whether the well-being effects of tech and social media use are moderated by the various decision-making styles.

The everyday effects of work email policies

Many companies strongly encourage employees not to send emails after work hours and remove moral obligations to respond to messages during free time. This project’s aim is to implement a randomised control trial on email-out-of-work policies. Building on the literature examining links between email, social media usage, well-being, and employee productivity, this project will explore the extent to which email-out-of-work policies influence time-use and subjective well-being. The project focuses on effect on stress, intensity within working time, and other compensating behaviours, and tests whether email-out-of-work policies are particularly beneficial for people with poor self-control.

The effect on alcohol display restrictions (“Booze curtains”)

In 2018, restrictions on alcohol displays will be implemented in Ireland. This policy aims to reduce the temptation and social pressure to consume alcohol by installing screens in front of the alcohol displays, informally known as “booze curtains”, in all retail outlets selling alcohol. This project evaluates this policy. The project uses naturalistic monitoring in order to evaluate this policy. In particular, we focus on the role of self-control and test whether the policy is particularly beneficial for people with poor self-control.

Medical adherence in everyday life

A major problem in most health systems is that people – despite their better intentions – do not take their medicine when they should. Not adhering to one’s prescriptions has increased the financial and health costs of medication. Using naturalistic measurement, we will identify the feelings, desires, and thoughts that predict medical (non-)adherence.

The validity of the DRM as a tool to measure everyday decision making

This project aims to test the validity of the DRM by comparing DRM data to equivalent experience sampling (mobile phone) data and identifying whether the reports from DRM match reports taken from real-time tracking. The project will also conduct detailed cognitive testing across all phases of the DRM to develop and improve the method. The project will generate a document that will facilitate the adaptation of the method by other researchers.