Applied behavioral economics and public health policies: Historical precedence and translational promise
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Behavioral economics is an approach to understanding behavior though integrating behavioral psychology and microeconomic principles. Advances in behavioral economics have resulted in quick-to-administer tasks to assess discounting (i.e., decrements in the subjective value of a commodity due to delayed or probabilistic receipt) and demand (i.e., effort exerted to defend baseline consumption of a commodity amidst increasing constraints)-these tasks are built upon decades of foundational work from the experimental analysis of behavior and exhibit adequate psychometric properties. We propose that the behavioral economic approach is particularly well suited, then, for experimentally evaluating potential public policy decisions, particularly during urgent times or crises. Using examples from our collaborations (e.g., cannabis legalization, happy hour alcohol pricing, severe weather alerts, COVID-19 vaccine marketing), we demonstrate how behavioral economic approaches have rendered novel insights to guide policy development and garnered widespread attention outside of academia. We conclude with implications on multidisciplinary work and other areas in need of behavioral economic investigations.
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