What We Gain from More Behavioral Science in the Global South

Article by Pauline Kabitsis and Lydia Trupe: “In recent years, the field has been critiqued for applying behavioral science at the margins, settling for small but statistically significant effect sizes. Critics have argued that by focusing our efforts on nudging individuals to increase their 401(k) contributions or to reduce their so-called carbon footprint, we have ignored the systemic drivers of important challenges, such as fundamental flaws in the financial system and corporate responsibility for climate change. As Michael Hallsworth points out, however, the field may not be willfully ignoring these deeper challenges, but rather investing in areas of change that are likely easier to move, measure, and secure funding.

It’s been our experience working in the Global South that nudge-based solutions can provide short-term gains within current systems, but for lasting impact a focus beyond individual-level change is required. This is because the challenges in the Global South typically navigate fundamental problems, like enabling women’s reproductive choice, combatting intimate partner violence and improving food security among the world’s most vulnerable populations.

Our work at Common Thread focuses on improving behaviors related to health, like encouraging those persistently left behind to get vaccinated, and enabling Ukrainian refugees in Poland to access health and welfare services. We use a behavioral model that considers not just the individual biases that impact people’s behaviors, but the structural, social, interpersonal, and even historical context that triggers these biases and inhibits health seeking behaviors…(More)”.