Martina Barjaková Peter D. Lunn

Behavioural science and the Covid-19 pandemic: How understanding human behaviour helps policy-makers in times of crisis

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In crisis situations like the Covid-19 pandemic, human behaviour plays a vital role. Understanding how people behave, why, and what might change their behaviour is thus crucial for governments and public health authorities. Such understanding can be enhanced through the use of behavioural science. This paper reviews some examples of the actual use of behavioural science to inform the Covid-19 pandemic policy response. Most (but not all) are drawn from the Irish pandemic response, reflecting the authors’ direct involvement in behavioural research for policy in this country and also Ireland’s systematic application of behavioural science during the pandemic. The review describes how different methods from behavioural science were deployed and discusses their merits and potential limitations. It summarises some lessons learned in two years of the pandemic, with the goal of improving the use of behavioural science in future crisis situations


  • Covid-19
  • behavioural science
  • behavioural public policy


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