Behavioral insights in the Piovesan Group

The primary goal of our group is to study everyday decisions that influence long-term well-being. We design and test experimentally policies based on behavioural insights that help to promote healthy aging. We collaborate with governments, institutions and non-profits to study decision making in natural environments.

Behavioral insights in the Piovesan Group

Research focus

Healthy aging is not only about the genes we are born with, but also about the choices, we make through our daily life. Thus, one “easy” way to foster healthy aging is to influence and guide behavior of those who are healthy (e.g. stopping smoking, eating healthier, being active), of those who are at risk (e.g. engaging with screening programs and attending medical appointments), and of those who are already ill (e.g. taking medication as prescribed).

“This is not easy as it sounds: human behaviour is often influenced by automatic, habitual and unconscious responses and people have limited self-control, attention, cognitive capacities and memory,” says Professor and Group Leader Marco Piovesan.

The group designs, conducts and evaluates a series of interventions based on behavioural insights to steer people towards a higher well-being. The group also investigates potential unintended side effects, heterogeneous effects on different target groups and finally clarifies whether these interventions can be implemented effectively, enhancing individual health, increasing productivity and reducing the health costs for society.

Main findings

  • Parents display behaviour that is more moral when they are under the scrutiny of their children.

  • While reminders to carry out an action are necessary to get people to act, they can backfire if overused, making individuals worse off in the long run.

  • Cognitive fatigue biases performance in standardized tests. Frequent breaks can help to alleviate this fatigue.

  • Individuals are strongly influenced in their food choices by the ordering of the menu. Healthy items on top make them significantly more likely to be chosen than at the bottom.