Anti-Racist & Indigenized Behavioural Science

Anti-Racist & Indigenized Behavioural Science

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Before diving in, we provide definitions of a few key terms and begin to describe what they mean in the context of behavioural science. For more definitions and a wonderful resource for language to use and avoid, check out the APA’s 2023 Inclusive Language Guide.

Key Terms

Anti-Racism is the deliberate act of identifying and opposing racism and instead promoting a society that is thoughtful, inclusive and just. This includes changing systems, organizational structures, policies and practices and attitudes, so that power is redistributed and shared equitably. (Sources: BC Anti-Racism Definitions and Canadian Anti-Racism Lexicon)

In behavioural science, anti-racism includes drawing on a broader set of insights, ways of knowing, and methodologies, updating the evidence base and the theories that draw on it, and diversifying the field.

Decolonization is the “process of deconstructing colonial ideologies of the superiority and privilege of Western thought and approaches. On the one hand, decolonization involves dismantling structures that perpetuate the status quo and addressing unbalanced power dynamics. On the other hand, decolonization involves valuing and revitalizing Indigenous knowledge and approaches and weeding out settler biases or assumptions that have impacted Indigenous ways of being.” (Source: “Pulling Together: A Guide for Front-Line Staff, Student Services, and Advisors“)

In behavioural science, decolonization includes equally valuing and utilizing Indigenous and Western worldviews, knowledge, and perspectives and changing how we do behavioural science to include principles such as “nothing about us without us”.

Diversity is the presence of difference, especially in the context of identities that “correspond to societal differences in power and privilege and thus to the marginalization of some groups based on specific attributes”. Diversity is used to describe groups of people and not a single person — we’re all individuals and, when groups of individuals with different identities, experience, and expertise come together, the group is diverse. (Sources: APA Inclusive Language Guide, General Assembly Blog, and Culture Amp Blog)

In behavioural science, we aim to be diverse with respect to personal identities (including race, ethnicity, Indigeneity, place of origin, culture, religion, gender identity, sexual orientation, age, physical disability, mental disability, socio-economic situation, marital status, family status, etc.), career identities (including discipline, role, sector, stage, etc.), and the resulting experiences (including both lived and professional), expertise, and perspectives.

Equity is about equal outcomes rather than equal treatment. When we treat everyone equally, we ignore individual needs, historical inequalities, and systemic barriers, which leads to unequal outcomes. When we treat everyone equitably, we recognize that not everyone is starting at the same place and we address imbalances to achieve equal outcomes. (Sources: APA Inclusive Language Guide, BC Anti-Racism Definitions and Canadian Anti-Racism Lexicon)

In behavioural science, equity includes addressing barriers to entering and advancing in the field, redistributing resources, and carefully considering which research questions are and are not pursued.

Inclusion is creating an environment that affirms, appreciates, and celebrates “different approaches, styles, perspectives, and experiences, thus allowing all individuals to express their whole selves (and all their identities) and to demonstrate their strengths and capacity”, which creates a dynamic, multi-dimensional group, organization, or field. (Sources: APA Inclusive Language Guide and Canadian Anti-Racism Lexicon)

In behavioural science, inclusion includes valuing and utilizing different perspectives, expertise, theoretical approaches, methodologies, and insights that come from a variety of disciplines, sectors, types of experiences, backgrounds, and ways of knowing and being.

Indigenization is “the collaborative process of naturalizing Indigenous intent, interactions, and processes and making them evident to transform spaces, places, and hearts”. When Indigenization is practiced, Indigenous peoples see themselves and their ways of knowing and doing represented, respected, and valued. (Sources: “Pulling Together: A Guide for Front-Line Staff, Student Services, and Advisors and Indigenous Corporate Training Inc.)

In behavioural science, Indigenization includes incorporating different Indigenous ways of knowing and doing into our theories and methods and increasing Indigenous representation.

Reconciliation is the “ongoing process of establishing and maintaining respectful relationships” between Indigenous peoples and Settlers. This includes “repairing damaged trust by making apologies, providing individual and collective reparations, and following through with concrete actions that demonstrate real societal change”. (Source: Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Report “Honouring the Truth, Reconciling for the Future”)

In behavioural science, Reconciliation includes collaborating with Indigenous peoples to Indigenize behavioural science and apply this Indigenized behavioural science to problems facing Indigenous peoples.

Behavioural Science Has a WEIRD History

Behavioural science, like many scientific fields, has been built by a small subset of privileged voices: Historically, the majority of behavioural scientists and the majority of participants in behavioural science research experiments have been WEIRD — from Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich, and Democratic societies. This means that the current practice of behavioural science does not represent all perspectives, and that there are both overt and covert biases in the theories, methods, publications, and applications of behavioural science.


Featured resource
  • UBC Psychology researchers Joe Henrich, Steve Heine, and Ara Norenzayan introduced the WEIRD acronym in 2010 to help behavioural science start to acknowledge its biases.
    • Henrich, J., Heine, S. & Norenzayan, A. (2010). Most people are not WEIRD. Nature, 466, 29. [ Journal article ]
Longer reads
  • The authors of the WEIRD paper have explored this idea in multiple formats, including:
    • Henrich, J. (2021). The WEIRDest people in the world: How the west became psychologically peculiar and particularly prosperous. Picador. [ Book ]
    • Henrich, J., Heine, S. & Norenzayan, A. (2010). The weirdest people in the world? Behavioural and Brain Sciences, 33(2-3), 61-83. [ Journal article behind paywall ]
Resources to explore
  • Some of the wording in the introductory paragraph above comes from Monica Linden’s syllabus diversity and inclusion statement, which is part of Brown University’s repository of teaching and learning resources.
    • Harriet W. Sheridan Center for Teaching and Learning, Brown University. [ Resource repository ]

Toward an Anti-Racist Behavioural Science

In recent years, the field of behavioural science has started to reckon with its WEIRD history and flawed practice. Behavioural scientists, practitioners, and enthusiasts are discussing how to move toward an anti-racist practice of applied behavioural science.

To help re-structure the practice of behavioural science, Crystal Hall recommends that we “demand better data, leverage a broader set of social science insights, diversify the field, and embrace many ways of knowing”. Rhiannon Mosher elaborates on this last point to underscore the importance of “leveraging a robust mixed-methods approach that includes rich, participatory, qualitative techniques throughout the project lifecycle to help the practice of behavioural science better reflect the lived experiences, beliefs, motivations, barriers and drivers of all”.

As behavioural science expands beyond WEIRD settings to the Global South and under-represented populations in the Global North, the field is also acknowledging the importance of directly involving individuals and communities whose behaviour is being studied. Beyond making behavioural science more equitable, empowering participants in Behavioural Insights (BI) projects advances the science by improving our understanding of context effects (i.e., the impacts of different settings and populations) and helping us design more impactful, more feasible BI solutions.

Additionally, the field is exploring how to build bridges between behavioural science communities in different settings and how to support the behavioural science work these different communities undertake.


Featured resources
  • The keynote address at BIG Difference BC 2022, delivered by Crystal Hall at the University of Washington, focused on the topic of anti-racist applied behavioural science.
    • BIG Difference BC 2022 “Antiracist applied behavioral science: Using our tools to confront structural racism”: Crystal’s address provides an introduction to applied behavioural science, some of its flaws, and strategies for doing better. [ Recording | Slide deck ]
    • BIG Difference blog post “Reflections on BIG Difference BC 2022 by an urban Inuk: Ripple effects leading to and coming from the conference”: Stephanie Papik shares how Crystal Hall’s keynote address resonated with her as an Indigenous person and member of the applied behavioural science community. [ Blog post ]
Calling DIBS podcast episodes
  • Episode 77: “How to make BI projects and partnerships work”
    • Ammaarah Martinus discusses the unique demands of applying BI outside of the lab and in the Global South as well as the requirements for successful projects and partnerships.
  • Episode 69: “Nudges work, but context matters”
    • Stephanie Mertens describes takeaways from her meta-analysis of BI’s first decade: Nudges work, but we still have a lot to learn about how, when, and for whom.
  • Episode 38: “How can being more equitable, diverse, and inclusive improve the field of behavioural insights?”
    • Sylvia Apostolidis describes ways in which the field of BI has not been diverse, inclusive, and equitable, changes it can make to be more diverse, inclusive, and equitable, and how those changes will improve the science and practice of BI.
  • Episode 31: “Applying BI to EDI and EDI to BI”
    • Greg Lockwood discusses both how Behavioural Insights solutions and experiments can help advance equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI), and, simultaneously, how EDI can improve BI solutions.
Shorter reads
  • Several leading Canadian organizations who work in the field of Behavioural Insights (BI) have agreed upon principles for applying BI.
    • BC Behavioural Insights Group. (2021). Six principles for applying Behavioural Insights in our work in Canada. [ White paper ]
  • Anthony Barrows makes the case for (1) having lived expertise on teams to complement the insights from mixed-methods approaches and (2) inclusive behavioural science environments that promote psychological safety and belonging for all members.
    • Barrows, A. (2022, Aug. 22). Lived experiences makes the work better. Behavioral Scientist. [ Blog post ]
  • Crystal Hall and Mindy Hernandez discuss how behavioural science can improve by grappling with structural barriers, collecting disaggregated data, and diversifying the field.
    • Hall, C. C., & Hernandez, M. (2021, June 21). Breaking the silence: Can behavioural science confront structural racism? Behavioral Scientist. [ Blog post ]
  • Stephanie Papik offers questions to help us tackle BI projects more thoughtfully, including considering whether the right people and ideas are included and whether we have left room for multiple “good” choices.
    • BIG Difference blog (Nov. 2023): “How might we? Strategies to improve how we work in behavioural science & beyond”[ Blog post ]
Longer reads
  • NiCole Buchanan and colleagues provide potential solutions and measurable outcome metrics to eliminate white supremacy in psychological science.
    • Buchanan, N. T., Perez, M., Prinstein, M. J., & Thurston, I. B. (2021). Upending racism in psychological science: Strategies to change how science is conducted, reported, reviewed, and disseminated. American Psychologist, 76(7), 1097–1112. [ Free pre-print | Journal article behind paywall ]
  • Michael Hallsworth describes 10 proposals for better applying behavioural science, including being humble, better exploring the context in which challenges occur, using data science to identify and reduce inequality, and adapting methods to the context.
    • Hallsworth, M. (2023, Mar. 20). A Manifesto for Applying Behavioral Science. Behavioural Insights Team. [ White paper ]
  • Ammaarah Martinus discusses the challenges of partnerships across sectors.
  • Winnie Mughogho, Jennifer Adhiambo, and Patrick Forscher discuss the importance of including Africa’s voice in behavioural science research and collaborating with respect.
    • Mughogho, W., Adhiambo, J., & Forscher, P. S. (2023). African researchers must be full participants in behavioural science research. Nature Human Behaviour, 7, 297-299. [ Journal article ]
  • The Urban Institute has released a report that discusses different ways of measuring structural racism, as well as their strengths and weaknesses. Although the report is based on the health literature, many of the insights will be useful for behavioural science research, too.
    • Furtado, K., Rao, N., Payton, M., Brown, K., Balu, R., & Dubay, L. (2023). Measuring structural racism: Approaches from the health literature. Urban Institute. [ Report ]
Videos to watch
  • Ammaarah Martinus discusses the unique demands of applying BI in the Global South in large organizations.
    • UBC-DIBS Behavioural Insights Seminar Series (Jun. 2023): “How BI can be used in large organizations in the Global South” [ Recording ]
Resources to explore
  • The American Psychological Association (APA) has a number of helpful resources on anti-racism.
    • Equity, diversity, and inclusion [ Webpage ]
    • Inclusive language guide [ Webpage ]
    • Racism, bias, and discrimination [ Webpage ]
  • Antiracism Learning and Action in Neuroscience (ALAN) has a number of resources for anti-racism in neuroscience and education.
    • Antiracism Learning and Action in Neuroscience (ALAN) [ Website ]
  • Project Evident has created the Center for Behavioral Design and Social Justice to build “systems that prioritize human needs, especially in communities that have historically been marginalized”. As part of this work, they have formed a network of intersectional professionals who have dual expertise (i.e., lived experience and professional experience).
    • Center for Behavioral Design and Social Justice [ Website ]

Indigenizing Behavioural Science

As part of an anti-racist approach to science, we must also consider the effects of colonialism and how we can Indigenize behavioural science. This includes:

  • Recognizing the equal validity of Indigenous worldviews, knowledge, and perspectives and Western scientific worldviews, knowledge, and perspectives;
  • Incorporating different Indigenous ways of knowing and doing into the methods and practice of behavioural science; and
  • Increasing representation of Indigenous peoples and opportunities for expressing Indigeneity within the practice of behavioural science.


Featured resources

Several episodes of the Calling DIBS podcast discuss different aspects of Indigenizing behavioural science. (The podcast is available on the wiki and on most major podcast platforms.)

  • Episode 58: “Include Indigenous worldviews”.
    • Emily Salmon, Assistant Professor of Business and Society and a Member of Cowichan Tribes, helps disentangle key terms like Reconciliation, Indigenization, and Decolonization. She also shares her research on the worldviews implicit in standard materials as well as the resulting themes, consequences, and strategies to do better.
  • Episode 80: “The ABCDEs of Indigenizing behavioural science”.
    • Stephanie Papik, urban Inuk and behavioural science practitioner, discusses the power of two-eyed seeing and the ABCDE framework, which encourages us to consider our Assumptions, who we’ve left Behind, who’ve we Consulted, what’s the Data, and are the outcomes Equitable?
  • Episode 26: “Be the hummingbird and other Indigenous strategies for behaviour change”.
    • Stephanie Papik, urban Inuk and behavioural science practitioner, describes some of the similarities between some Indigenous ways of knowing and Behavioural Insights and shares ways that we can all use Behavioural Insights to contribute to Reconciliation.
Calling DIBS podcast episodes
  • Episode 75: “Questioning assumptions to understand values and behaviour”.
    • Jordyn Hrenyk’s work with Indigenous entrepreneurs questions a variety of implicit and explicit assumptions in behavioural science research and business.
Longer reads
  • Fran Baum and colleagues offer participatory action research as a way to improve research iniquities by valuing reflection and involving impacted people.
    • Baum, F., MacDougall, C., & Smith, D. (2006). Participatory action research. Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health, 60(10), 854-857. [ Journal article ]
  • Genevieve Cox and colleagues explore how Indigenous standpoint theory can help decolonize social science by recognizing impacts of structural inequalities, integrating Indigenous ways of knowing, and promoting direct application of research benefits to Indigenous peoples.
    • Cox, G. R., FireMoon, P., Anastario, M. P., Ricker, A., Escarcega-Growing Thunder, R., Baldwin, J. A., & Rink, E. (2021). Indigenous standpoint theory as a theoretical framework for decolonizing social science health research with American Indian communities. AlterNative: An International Journal of Indigenous Peoples, 17(4), 460–468. [ Free article | Journal article behind paywall ]
  • Denise Marie Findlay explores how Sḵwx̱wú7mesh philosophy can help higher education make strides toward Reconciliation.
    • Findlay, D. M. (2023). Becoming the imperfect friend: Sḵwx̱wú7mesh and contemplative pathways to healing and reconciliation in higher education. Journal of Contemplative and Holistic Education, 1(2). [ Journal article ]
  • Robin Wall Kimmerer discusses how Indigenous knowledge can complement Western mainstream scientific methodologies.
    • Kimmerer, R. W. (2013). Braiding sweetgrass: Indigenous wisdom, scientific knowledge, and the teachings of plants. Milkweed Editions. [ Book ]
  • Debbie Martin presents the Mi’kmaw practice of “two-eyed seeing” as a theoretical framework that embraces the contributions of both Indigenous and Western ways of knowing.
    • Martin, D. H. (2012). Two-eyed seeing: A framework for understanding Indigenous and Non-Indigenous
      approaches to Indigenous health research. Canadian Journal of Nursing Research Archive, 44(2), 20-42. [ Journal article ]
Videos to watch
  • Jordyn Hrenyk and Emily Salmon discuss how key teaching tools often exclusively adopt a Western worldview, the consequences of this one-sided perspective, and strategies to do better.
    • UBC JEDDI Seminar Series (Oct. 2022): “The unstated ontology of the business case study” [ Recording ]
Resources to explore
  • Some of the wording in the introductory paragraph above comes from Indigenous Corporate Training Inc.’s “A brief definition of Decolonization and Indigenization”.
    • A brief definition of Decolonization and Indigenization. (2017, Mar. 29). Indigenous Corporate Training Inc. [ Blog post ]

Applying Behavioural Insights to Anti-Racism and Reconciliation

Anti-racism and Reconciliation are both systemic and behavioural challenges: Systems change is absolutely required and individual behaviour change is crucial. Anti-racist, Indigenized behavioural science can support both anti-racism and Reconciliation by offering tools to help bridge the intention-action gap and encourage behaviour change.


Featured resources

The UBC-DIBS Behavioural Insights seminar series has welcomed some fantastic presenters who have discussed how they use behavioural science to reduce inequity.

  • “Indigenous equity nudges: Creating spaces for action towards health system transformation, cultural safety and Reconciliation”
    • Brittany Bingham shares some of the ways her team is using behavioural science to reduce inequities in the healthcare system. [ Recording starts at minute 26 ]
  • “Behavioural insights for building more equitable societies”
    • Neil Lewis Junior shares some of his research about how behavioural science can help us understand and tackle gaps in equity [ Recording ]
Calling DIBS podcast episodes
  • Episode 73: “Applying BI in humanitarian settings”
    • Britt Titus describes how working humanitarian settings around the world requires modifications to the standard BI approach, including validating assumptions and identifying leverage points that maximize impact and feasibility.
  • Episode 71: “Applying BI to community services challenges”
    • Brianne Kirkpatrick and Ansley Dawson discuss how they tackle how scoping, evaluation, and scaling in a complex problem involving multiple partners, datasets, and under-served populations.
  • Episode 41: “Behavioural Insights and Reconciliation”
    • Stephanie Papik discusses how BI can help us understand barriers to Reconciliation, like blindspots and difficult emotions. She also discusses how BI strategies, like disrupting habits and providing calls to action (including recommending the Indigenous Relations Behavioural Competencies), can contribute to Reconciliation.
  • Episode 37: “How can behavioural insights help organizations be more diverse, inclusive, and equitable?”
    • Sylvia Apostolidis discusses examples of how organizations can and have used BI to become more equitable, diverse, and inclusive in areas such as hiring, promotion, and retention.
Longer reads
  • Nicholas Biddle suggests that applying insights from applied behavioural science can improve policy decisions that relate to Indigenous peoples in Australia.
    • Biddle, N. (2016). Insights for Indigenous policy from the applied behavioural sciences. Asia & the Pacific Policy Studies, 4(1), 129-140. [ Journal article ]
  • Elizabeth Levy Paluck and colleagues describe a meta-analysis of studies on prejudice reduction and speak to which approaches are more and less effective.
    • Paluck, E. L., Porat, R., Clark, C. S., & Green, D. P. (2021). Prejudice reduction: Progress and challenges. Annual Review of Psychology, 72, 533-560. [ Journal article ]
  • The World Health Organization suggests that using behavioural and cultural insights can help inequities in health and other outcomes.
    • World Health Organization. (2023, April 20). A guide to tailoring health programmes: Using behavioural and cultural insights to tailor health policies, services, and communications to the needs and circumstances of people and communities. [ Report ]
Resources to explore
  • Stephanie Papik offers Circle Practice as a BI tool to support equity, justice, and Reconciliation.
    • BIG Difference BC 2019 lightning talk (Nov. 2019): “Circle practice as a behavioural insights tool to support the process of Reconciliation” [ Slide deck | Circle resources ]

Anti-Racism and Reconciliation More Broadly

The sections above focus on resources specifically related to applied behavioural science. Although an exhaustive list of anti-racism and Reconciliation resources is beyond the scope of this page, below we provide a starter list of general anti-racism and Reconciliation resources.

Important Dates & Ongoing Events

Important Dates
  • January 4: National Ribbon Skirt Day [ About ]
  • February: Black History Month [ About ]
  • February 21: International Mother Language Day [ About ]
  • May 5: Red Dress Day a.k.a. National Day of Awareness for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls and Two-Spirit People [ About ]
  • May 16, 2024 (varies): Moose Hide Campaign Day [ About ]
  • June: National Indigenous History Month [ About ]
  • June 19: Juneteenth (US) [ About ]
  • June 21: National Indigenous Peoples Day [ About ]
  • October 4: National Day of Action for MMIWG2S [ About ]
  • October 14, 2024 (varies): Indigenous Peoples’ Day (US) [ About ]
  • September 30: Orange Shirt Day [ About ] and National Day for Truth & Reconciliation [ About ]
    • Moose Hide Campaign Guide to Observing September 30th [ Resource ]
    • Wiki post for National Day for Truth & Reconciliation [ 2023, 2022, 2021 ]

See the Global Diversity Calendar for additional important dates.

Ongoing Events
  • UBC Faculty of Medicine Office of Respectful Environments, Equity, Diversity & Inclusion [ Webinars ]
  • UBC Learning Circle [ Webinars ]

General Resources for Reconciliation & Anti-Racism

Resources for Reconciliation
  • Canadian National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation [ Resources & events ]
  • First Nations Health Authority resources on cultural safety and humility [ Resources ]
  • Indigenous Canada course from the University of Alberta [ Online course | YouTube conversations ]
  • Indigenous Relations Behavioural Competencies [ Resource ]
  • Interactive map of Indigenous lands by Native Land Digital [ Interactive map ]
  • National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls [ Reports ]
  • Truth and Reconciliation Commission [ Reports ]
  • UBC Indian Residential School History and Dialogue Centre [ Resources & events ]
  • Podcasts
    • Media Indigena is a “weekly current affairs roundtable focusing on Indigenous issues and events in North America and beyond”.
    • All My Relations explores “what it means to be a Native person” in the 21st century.
Resources for Anti-Racism
  • The 1619 Project [ Resources ]
  • Anti-racism resource compendium [ Resources ]
  • GBA Plus online course from Women and Gender Equality Canada. GBA Plus “is an analytical tool used to support the development of responsive and inclusive policies, programs, and other initiatives”. [ Course ]
  • “How to be an anti-racist” by Ibram Kendi [ Book | Resources | Anti-racist reading list ]
  • “The inner work of racial justice: Healing ourselves and transforming our communities through mindfulness” by Rhonda Magee [ Book ]
  • National Museum of African American History & Culture resources for talking about race [ Resources ]

Recent Relevant Wiki Posts

Acknowledgements & Gratitude

Thank you to the many contributors to this page, including Stephanie Papik, Crystal Hall, and Rhiannon Mosher and her colleagues at the Public Health Agency of Canada’s Behavioural Science Office.

The wiki is maintained by UBC Decision Insights for Business & Society (UBC-DIBS), which is located on the traditional, ancestral, and unceded territory of the xwməθkwəy̓əm (Musqueam), Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish), and Səl̓ílwətaʔ/Selilwitulh (Tsleil-Waututh). We gratefully acknowledge these peoples, who for millennia have passed on their culture, history, and traditions from one generation to the next in this area. As behavioural scientists, we also know that words are not enough. We are committed to closing the intention-action gap by working toward an anti-racist, Indigenized practice of behavioural science.


  • Many included resources fall under multiple headings. For simplicity, each resource is only listed once.
  • Book links are to Massy Books, an Indigenous-owned and -operated bookstore located in Vancouver.
  • This page is continually being edited and updated. Submit suggestions to

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