4th Behavioural Exchange Conference 2017

On 29–30 June 2017, Singapore hosted the 4th Behavioural Exchange conference (BX2017). BX is an annual conference that brings together leading academics, senior policymakers, and practitioners to discuss how behavioural insights can strengthen policy design and implementation. BX2017 was attended by over 400 participants from all over the world and was opened by Mr Peter Ong, Head of Singapore Civil Service (video of opening address). 

Day 1

Highlights included keynote speeches by Professor Dean Karlan (Yale University) and Professor Colin Camerer (Caltech University). Professor Karlan spoke about the power of commitment devices and how to design effective ones for policymaking (summary (PDF, 164KB) | slides (PDF, 1.2MB) | video), while Professor Camerer spoke about how we can change existing habits and create new ones (summary (PDF, 173KB) | slides (PDF, 1.3MB) | video).


The Finance and Regulation panellists (Mr Bilal Zia, Ms Patricia de Jonge and Professor Sumit Agarwal) discussed the importance of embedding experiments into interventions so that they can be improved to fit the behaviours of people in areas such as consumer credit and consumer financial regulation. Panellists also presented several efforts to help consumers make better finance decisions (slides from Zia (PDF, 4.8MB) | slides from de Jonge (PDF, 881KB) | slides from Agarwal (PDF, 738KB)| video).

The Public Health and Wellbeing panellists (Dr Alex King, Mr Zee Yong Kang and A/Prof Jason Doctor) shared their challenges on sustaining healthy behaviours as well as balancing the constraints of a government agency with the scientific rigour required for experiments. Panellists also talked about the scope for governments to nudge healthcare providers as well, and not just patients and the general public (slides from King (PDF, 1.0MB) | slides from Zee (PDF, 1.6MB) | slides from Doctor (PDF, 881KB) | video).


Day 2

Mr Rayid Ghani (University of Chicago) delivered a keynote speech, highlighting how data science and machine learning can complement behavioural insights to make better social policies (summary (PDF, 168KB) | slides (PDF, 542KB) | video).

Panellists at the Public Communication and Engagement session (Ms Jerrill Rechter, Prof Jon White and Mr Philip Ong) shared about harnessing BI to better engage citizens in various domains such as promoting and sustaining healthy behaviours and shaping public norms and discourse. They also discussed the potential of BI in overcoming biases that are perpetuated by social media, such as confirmation bias and homophily (a tendency to interact only with people with similar perspectives). These biases are harmful as they can cause rifts between different groups and generate intolerance in the society (slides from Rechter (PDF, 4.9MB) | slides from Ong (PDF, 1.1MB) | video).

Lessons Learnt — The Good, The Bad, The Ugly panellists (Mr Faisal Naru, Mr Kok Ping Soon, Prof Michael Hiscox and Ms Shobhini Mukerji) consolidated views on how BI has become mainstream in both development policies and policies in developed countries across the world. Panellists shared about frameworks that would be useful in applying BI in public policies, such as an ethical framework developed by the OECD and SEED by Singapore. Panellists also spoke about building trust in BI by being transparent and accountable, as well as using robust scientific methods in designing interventions. In policy work, they emphasised that BI needs to be used in conjunction with other tools in addressing complex issues (slides from Naru (PDF, 1.2MB| slides from Kok (PDF, 3.6MB) | slides from Hiscox (PDF, 1.1MB) | slides from Mukerji (PDF, 1.2MB) | video).


Closing Panel

BX2017 ended with a closing panel focussing on Frontiers and Cutting-Edge Research, where the keynote speakers, Professor Colin Camerer and Mr Rayid Ghani, were joined by Dr David Halpern of the UK Behavioural Insights Team (BIT). Al​l three speakers agreed on the great potential of data science to progress BI towards a more targeted approach. Other than being applied to aggregates, data science and BI can work together, so that smaller groups or people facing varying risk levels or needs can be identified, and specific interventions can be designed for them. However, the panellists also cautioned against thinking of data science as a silver bullet. They emphasised the importance of complementing predictions with psychological lab experiments. They also drew attention to the fact that machine learning generalises by choosing a model that best fits the data, which is not as robust as traditional statistical methods (slides from Halpern (PDF, 3.0MB) | slides from Camerer (PDF, 476KB) | slides from Ghani (PDF, 542KB) | video).


Breakout Sessions

Apart from keynote speeches and panel discussions, participants of BX2017 also had the opportunity to play an interactive game to understand Bandwidth Tax, and attend concurrent breakout sessions, covering topics ranging from public transport to philanthropy. 

The presentations slides from these sessions can be downloaded from here: BX2017 Conference Materials.​ ​​​​​​