Combining behavioural and reflective policy tools for the environment: a scoping review of behavioural public policy literature

Farhad Mukhtarov*

*Corresponding author for this work

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Recent advances in behavioural and communication sciences generated enthusiasm in public policy for new ways of ‘framing’ messages and ‘nudging’ individual behaviour. Wide research and practice of behavioural interventions that have since ensued triggered the rise of a new sub-field called Behavioural Public Policy (BPP). At the same time, nudges–a part and parcel of BPP, have received criticism for being paternalistic, non-democratic and lacking evidence of long-term effectiveness. More recently, the whole project of BPP has come under criticism as construed too narrowly. Critics have argued for a new approach to BPP that is pluralistic, multi-disciplinary and multi-method. One key pillar of it is a ‘policy mix’–a combined application of behavioural and non-behavioural policy tools. Little is known, however, about ‘policy mixes’ in practice. This paper conducts a scoping non-exhaustive review of the academic and policy literature published between 2008 and 2020 that discusses policy mixes of behavioural policy tools (defined in this paper as ‘nudges’ and ‘frames’) and reflective policy tools (defined in this paper as ‘deliberative’ events and incentives for individuals to ‘think’) employed within environmental policy. Two questions guide this review: (a) what are the characteristics of policy mixes in terms of their types, geography, sectors of application, and empirical detail of exposition?; (b) to what extent do existing policy mixes include broader governance aspects of politics, awareness of contextuality and flexibility? By taking stock of experiences of empirical place-based policy mixes of behavioural and reflective tools, we provide insights into a fast-developing body of scholarship and point to ways forward with policy mixes. The paper is also relevant to policy studies beyond the domain of the environment.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)714-741
Number of pages28
JournalJournal of Environmental Planning and Management
Issue number4
Early online date2 Nov 2022
Publication statusPublished - 2022

Bibliographical note

This work was supported by Research Support Grant from ADA University (2015–2016).

Publisher Copyright: © 2022 Newcastle University.

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