Behavioural Insights at UBC


Decision Insights for Business & Society (UBC-DIBS) is a behavioural research and policy solutions initiative at UBC Sauder School of Business. Our mission is to improve outcomes across major societal and planetary challenges by improving our understanding of decision-making, encouraging long-term behaviour change, and working together toward an environmentally, economically, and socially sustainable future. We conduct behavioural and decision science research, offer Behavioural Insights training, and host events and resources.
Read our 2022-2023 Annual Report to learn more about what we do.

UBC-DIBS Behavioural Insights Seminar

Our online Behavioural Insights Seminar Series features researchers and practitioners sharing their field and lab projects that use the behavioural and decision sciences to “nudge for good”. Register to attend the 2023-2024 series at Recordings of past seminars are below.


Hal Hershfield
(University of California, Los Angeles)
“Connecting to Our Future Selves:
How to Make Tomorrow Better Today”
[ Seminar | Book ]

Rishad Habib
(Toronto Metropolitan University)
“Shifting Consumer Behavior to Address Climate Change”
[ Seminar ]

Matthew Davies
(Behavioural Science Aotearoa)
“Applying Behavioural Lenses and Insights to New Zealand’s Justice System”
[ Seminar ]

Jessica Leifer
“Structural and Behavioural Barriers to Greater Climate Action Among Adults in Canada: Insights from the Program of Applied Research on Climate Action in Canada”
[ Seminar ]

Anuj Shah
(University of Chicago)
“A Cognitive View of Policing”
[ Seminar ]


Ammaarah Martinus
“Applying Behavioural Insights to Large Organizations”
[ Seminar ]

Brittany Bingham & Andrea MacNeill
(Vancouver Coastal Health)
“Sustainable Health Equity for Patients, Public, & Planet”
[ Seminar ]

Vince Hopkins
(University of Saskatchewan)
“How Does Financial Scarcity Impact Take-Up of Employment Services? Evidence from a Survey Experiment”
[ Seminar ]

Erik Thulin
“The Behavioral Science of Changing Climate Culture”
[ Seminar ]

Jeremy Gretton
(BIT Canada)
“Reaching Nonprofit Program Participants: Developing More Effective Tools by Learning What Doesn’t Work”
[ Seminar ]

Neil Lewis, Jr.
(Cornell University)
“Behavioural Insights for Building More Equitable Societies”
[ Seminar ]

UBC-DIBS Seminar f. Ellen Peters, University of Oregon

Ellen Peters
(University of Oregon)
“Numeracy and the Motivational Mind: How Confidence in Numeric Ability Affects Decision Making”
[ Seminar ]

UBC-DIBS Seminar f. Claire Tsai, University of Toronto

Claire Tsai
(University of Toronto)
“Risky but Alluring: Severe COVID-19 Pandemic Influence Increases Risk Taking”
[ Seminar ]


UBC-DIBS Seminar f. David Hardisty, UBC

David Hardisty
“Twice as Nice? A Longitudinal Field Study of Separate vs. Combined Nudges for Household Laundry Behaviours”
[ Seminar ]

Nina Mažar
(Boston University)
“Behavioral Science in the Wild: Getting Individuals and Organizations to Pay Their Overdue Taxes”
[ Seminar | Book ]

Eric Johnson
(Columbia University)
“The Elements of Choice”
[ Seminar | Book ]

Don Moore
(UC Berkeley)
“The Psychology of Confidence”
[ Seminar | Book ]

Vanessa Bohns
(Cornell University)
“Saying “No” is Hard: Implications for Compliance and Consent”
[ Seminar | Book ]

Yann Cornil
“Epicurean Nudging: Increasing the Perceived Value of Smaller Portion Sizes”
[ Seminar ]


Jiaying Zhao
“Using Cash Transfers to Reduce Homelessness”
[ Seminar ]

Elspeth Kirkman
“Defining Behavioural Insights”
[ Seminar | Book ]

Kate White
“When Do Advance Gratitude Expressions Encourage Prosocial Behaviours?”
[ Seminar ]

Note: Book links are to Massy Books, an Indigenous-owned and -operated bookstore located in Vancouver.

UBC-DIBS Working Papers

UBC-DIBS has a working paper series featuring research projects from DIBS researchers as well as capstone projects from students in the UBC Advanced Professional Certificate in Behavioural Insights. You can also read our 2022-2023 Annual Report.


SHIFTing Consumer Behaviour
Pilot Program

Kate White, Rishad Habib, & Sid Mookerjee, in partnership with the Share Reuse Repair Initiative

[ Report ]

UBC-DIBS researcher Kate White and grad students Rishad Habib and Sid Mookerjee partnered with the Share Reuse Repair Initiative to offer circular innovators training on how to SHIFT consumers toward adopting circular behaviours (e.g., buying second-hand, repairing instead of replacing, choosing re-usable over single-use items, etc.) This report provides an overview of the training program as well as case studies from program participants.

Keywords: behavioural insights, nudge, SHIFT, environmental sustainability, circular economy, social influence, social norms, self interest


Nudging policymakers on gendered impacts of policy

Lindsay Bochon, Janet Dean, Tanja Rosteck (Advisor: Jiaying Zhao)

[ PLOS One article ]

Despite the proliferation of nudge research in the last few decades, very little published work aims to nudge the behavior of policymakers. Here we explore the impact of a well-established nudge on policymakers in the Northwest Territories of Canada. In a pre-registered randomized controlled trial, we emailed an invitation to policymakers (N = 263) to attend an online briefing on gendered impacts of policy. In the treatment condition (N = 133), the invitation contained personal stories of two women whose lives were disproportionally impacted by public policies more than men. In the control condition (N = 130), the invitation did not contain such stories. After the briefing, we sent all participants in both conditions a link to a public pledge that they could sign. The pledge was to lead and advocate for equity-oriented policymaking. Contrary to our prediction, there was a small backfiring effect where policymakers in the treatment condition (3.0%) were less likely to attend the briefing than the control condition (7.7%). However, two policymakers (1.5%) in the treatment condition signed the public pledge compared to one (0.8%) in the control condition. The current findings reveal the limits of using personal stories as a nudge to influence policymakers. We discuss insights gained from this experiment and follow-up debriefings with policymakers on how to improve future behavioral interventions designed to nudge policymakers.

Keywords: behavioural insights, nudge, public policy, sexual and gender issues, anecdotes

I Saw the Sign! Using Behaviourally-Informed Signs to Encourage Parking Compliance

James Climenhage, Mandy Khoo, & Whitney Queisser (Advisor: David Hardisty)

[ Working Paper PDF ]

This project aimed to improve compliance with paid parking in the City of Vancouver. New “Behavioural Insights informed” parking signs incorporated salience by increasing sign and font size and adding more colour. Due to feasibility constraints, the control and BI-informed signs were compared in a quasi-experimental trial between two locations in the city. Although the BI-informed signs did not significantly increase parking compliance, the project team has several recommendations, including trialing in other locations and trialing signs incorporating other Behavioural Insights.

Keywords: behavioural insights, nudge, salience, loss aversion, compliance, signage, parking

Using Reminders to Expedite Claim Form Submission
Among Injured Workers

Summer Roddick & Laura Ruiz (Advisor: David Hardisty)

[ Working Paper PDF | Conference Slides ]

This project aimed to improve form submission rates and timeliness for injured workers going through a claims process. New “Behavioural Insights informed” reminders were designed to simplify language and reduce friction by providing a link to the required form; they were sent at the right time and included a deadline to reduce procrastination. A control condition was compared against three intervention conditions (simple SMS reminder, simple email reminder, and simple SMS reminder plus detailed email) in a randomized controlled trial. All three reminders significantly increased both form submission rates and the timeliness of submission. Based on the results and implementation costs, the simple email reminder is recommended as the best solution. The project team also includes several recommendations for scaling and further research.

Keywords: behavioural insights, nudge, reminders, simplification, friction, prompts, deadlines, return to work

Shifting to Digital Communications

Amalia Colussi, Dana Hubackova, & Shannon McDonaugh (Advisor: Kirstin Appelt)

[ Conference Video & Slides ]

This project aimed to encourage pension plan members to shift to digital delivery of pension information. The basic “Behavioural Insights informed” email incorporated a reminder and reduced friction; the more comprehensive email also added a deadline and checklist. These BI-informed communications were compared to a control condition with no reminder in a randomized controlled trial. Reminders significantly increased the number of members logging into their online accounts and the comprehensive email significantly increased the number of members choosing digital delivery.

Keywords: behavioural insights, nudge, reminders, checklists, deadlines, friction, shift to digital


Increasing the Completion of Family Plans in Collaboration with Families

Erin Crowley, Caroline Grenier, & Kelsie Wright (Advisor: Dale Griffin)

[ Working Paper PDF ]

This project aimed to encourage Child Protection Social Workers to complete Family Plans in collaboration with families. A new “Behavioural Insights informed” worksheet incorporated implementation intentions and a BI-informed form used simplification. These interventions were compared to the current Family Plan form in a randomized controlled trial using a 2×2 factorial design. Although the BI-informed worksheet and form did not significantly improve Family Plan completion, data sources yielded conflicting conclusions and not all participants received the intervention materials. Despite these limitations, the project team demonstrated the feasibility and value of using BI and evidence-based decision-making to improve service delivery and outcomes for families.

Keywords: behavioural insights, nudging, implementation intentions, simplification, forms, worksheets, child protection services

Shortening Return to Work Time for Injured Workers

Clare Doyle & Daile MacDonald (Advisor: Dale Griffin)

[ Conference Poster ]

This project aimed to reduce time away from work for injured workers who submitted a WorkSafeBC claim. New “Behavioural Insights informed” emails included a checklist with or without goal setting plus pre-commitment. Control and BI-informed emails were compared in a randomized controlled trial. Although the BI-informed emails did not significantly reduce time away from work, the project team identified promising future directions including changing email timing, shortening checklists, and automating emails.

Keywords: behavioural insights, nudge, checklist, goal setting, pre-commitment, return to work

See the Sign, Avoid the Fine:
TSZ Parking Signs in Vancouver

Parinda Chagani, Eva Lai, & Carl Jensen
(Advisor: David Hardisty)

[ Working Paper PDF | Conference Poster ]

This project aimed to improve compliance with temporary parking restrictions in the City of Vancouver. New “Behavioural Insights informed” parking signs incorporated salience and loss aversion. Control and BI-informed signs were compared in a randomized controlled trial. The BI-informed signs reduced parking violations by 57%. Although this difference was not statistically significant, it may be managerially significant. The project team recommended extending the trial to collect more data, trialing BI-informed signs for other types of parking zones, and conducting a cost-benefit analysis to inform scaling decisions.

Keywords: behavioural insights, nudge, salience, loss aversion, compliance, signage, parking

Encouraging Employees to Improve Documentation

Carolyn Babakaiff, Anna Burrowes, & Maxine Russ (Advisor: Jiaying Zhao)

[ Conference Poster ]

This project aimed to enourage case workers to sufficiently document eligibility decisions on client files. A new “Behavioural Insights informed” notes template used simplified instructions and pro-social messaging. These interventions were compared to control in a randomized controlled trial using a mixed between- and within-subjects design. The BI-informed notes template significantly increased the number of sufficiently documented client files. The project team recommended implementing the new template and exploring additional insights, like standardizing definitions and trialing new incentives.

Keywords: behavioural insights, nudge, template, simplification, pro-social, employee performance

Testing Two Nudges to Reduce Racial and Gender Bias
in Student Evaluations of Teaching

Greg Lockwood, Andrea Vásquez Rodríguez, & Rachel Yang (Advisor: Jiaying Zhao)

[ Working Paper PDF ]

This project aimed to reduce racial and gender bias in Student Evaluations of Teaching at a large post-secondary institution in Western Canada. In a 2 x 2 factorial randomized controlled trial using midterm student evaluations from over 900 undergraduate students, a disclosure statement, pre-commitment, and disclosure statement plus pre-commitment were tested against a control condition. The results of the study were inconclusive, suggesting that other types of behavioral interventions, as well as systemic policy changes at the broader level, could be pursued to improve career outcomes for instructors from marginalized groups.

Keywords: behavioural insights, nudge, disclosure, pre-commitment, racial bias, gender bias, bias reduction

Check Your Inbox: Evaluating the Impact of Email Reminders on Hearing Attendance

Alexis Gordon, Emily Medd, & Lindsay Miles-Pickup (Advisor: Kirstin Appelt)

[ Working Paper PDF | Conference Video & Slides ]

This project aimed to increase attendance at tenancy dispute hearings managed by the BC Residential Tenancy Branch. New “Behavioural Insights informed” pre-hearing notification emails incorporated salient information, consequences of inaction, and actionable next steps. Due to feasibility constraints, control and BI-informed emails were compared in a quasi-experimental trial. Although the BI-informed emails did not significantly increase hearing attendance, the project team identified several useful insights, including the impact of cultural holidays, missing email addresses, and other barriers.

Keywords: behavioural insights, nudge, email reminder, salience, consequences, call to action, attendance, dispute resolution

UBC-DIBS Community

Our Partners

UBC-DIBS is fortunate to collaborate with and be supported by an amazing network of organizations across sectors.

BIG Difference BC logo

With the support of a cross-sectoral advisory board, UBC-DIBS and the BC Behavioural Insights Group (BC BIG) co-lead BIG Difference BC, a network of BI enthusiasts and experts from government, academia, and across the public, non-profit, and private sectors in British Columbia and beyond.

  • Monthly newsletter: Subscribe to our monthly newsletter that shares news, “choice events”, “choice reads”, BI tips and case studies, and other opportunities and highlights from across our network. 
  • Regular blog: Read our blog for a wide variety of content, including glimpses of how practitioners use BI, examples of BI in the wild, case studies, topical issues, and guest posts from community members.
  • Annual conference: Co-hosted by UBC-DIBS, BC BIG, and WorkSafeBC, our free, online, annual conference celebrates using the behavioural and decision sciences for positive social impact across topics and sectors in BC and beyond.

UBC-DIBS 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 exploring how Behavioural Insights and Indigenous ways of knowing and being can be mutually supporting. We are also working to add relevant resources to the wiki, such as podcast episodes featuring Indigenous voices, and exploring how Behavioural Insights can contribute to Reconciliation.

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