Use this URL to cite or link to this record in EThOS:
Title: Increasing compliance in policy settings by applying psychological theories of behaviour to message design
Author: Hallsworth, Michael
ISNI:       0000 0004 6422 9517
Awarding Body: Imperial College London
Current Institution: Imperial College London
Date of Award: 2017
Availability of Full Text:
Access from EThOS:
Access from Institution:
This thesis examines how the design of messages affects the extent to which individuals comply with requests or requirements from public actors. More specifically, it presents results from seven field experiments on changing messages sent to the public and professionals as part of routine public sector activities: issuing requests for overdue tax payments, sending reminders for upcoming hospital appointments, and providing antibiotic prescribing feedback to general practitioners. These are all cases where non-compliance can create harm or inconvenience to others. The trial messages are constructed to test the two main approaches to increasing compliance: one, ‘deterrence’, sees individuals as utility maximizers who are concerned solely with advancing their private interests, and who respond only to the threat of sanctions; the other, ‘non-deterrence’, claims that compliance is influenced by factors such as social norms, perceptions of fairness, ethical concerns, and the provision of public goods. I attempt to increase the impact of both approaches by applying concepts from behavioural science, such as framing effects and the omission bias. The results indicate that deterrence-based messages consistently increase tax compliance, sometimes to a substantial extent. Non-deterrence messages also can increase compliance with both healthcare and taxation policies, although the effects are sometimes small. The largest effect sizes for non-deterrence approaches came from social norm messages. Non-deterrence approaches may be more effective for populations who had previously been compliant. Importantly, I provide evidence that both deterrence and non-deterrence messages can be enhanced through the application of concepts from behavioural science. These trials strengthen the limited evidence base on the real-world effects of messages intended to increase policy compliance. They demonstrate that compliance may depend on specific choices about how messages are constructed and delivered. In the process, they show how behavioural science offers a useful framework for governments making these important choices.
Supervisor: Darzi, Ara ; Vlaev, Ivo Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral