Behavioral Buzz: Lessons for incorporating behavioral science into government


Behavioral science demonstrates that even small hassles create barriers that prevent those in need of services from receiving them. Applying behavioral insights can improve the way programs are designed and services are delivered.



March 2023

Next-Generation Behavioral Science Interventions: Lessons from Two TANF Agencies

The Behavioral Interventions to Advance Self-Sufficiency-Next Generation (BIAS-NG) project aims to make human services programs work better for the people receiving services by reshaping program processes using lessons from behavioral science. In this Behavioral Buzz, we share insights from two states that focused on improving employment and training services for Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) clients.

January 2021

A Practitioner Reflects: Applying Behavioral Science to Social Services

Testing behavioral science innovations in human services programs requires a strong partnership between researchers and practitioners. This Behavioral Buzz spotlights how collaboration happened in one county and how designating a “Behavioral Liaison” with deep roots in the program benefitted both the research process and the agency.

April 2020

Five Evidence-Based Behavioral Science Practices for Social Services Agencies During COVID-19

Social services agencies are mobilizing to support clients’ resilience and ability to recover from the health and economic impacts caused by COVID-19. Behavioral science research on decision making in contexts of scarcity, including tests of interventions in social services settings, offers useful guidance for staff adapting to today’s evolving challenges.

March 2019

Next-Generation Behavioral Science Interventions: Promising Evidence from Ohio Child Support Services

Interventions informed by behavioral science have consistently found positive results from “nudges”—low-cost tweaks to the environment or materials like letters, forms, and reminders. Our experiences with social services partners suggest that if we go beyond the tweaks that have frequently characterized behavioral interventions, we might see even larger impacts. 

October 2018

Lessons from Nudgers: What can TANF learn from dentists?

We may not go to the dentist seeking inspiration for social policy, but that doesn’t mean it’s not there.

May 2018

Behavioral Science Interventions in Child Welfare: Challenges and Opportunities

Child welfare is a relatively new program area for testing behaviorally informed interventions. The Behavioral Interventions to Advance Self-Sufficiency – Next Generation (BIAS-NG) research team has spent the past year speaking with child welfare agencies and service providers, exploring opportunities for using behavioral interventions to address challenges to achieving desired outcomes.

November 2017

Can a new approach to problem-solving lead to better outcomes?

The results of behavioral tests get a lot of attention (for good reason!), but we focus much less on the practical lessons that can be drawn from the process of developing and implementing interventions. The recently published final report of the Behavioral Interventions to Advance Self-Sufficiency (BIAS) project, Nudging Change in Human Services, fills this gap by devoting an entire chapter to lessons we learned from implementing the different interventions .

April 2017

Putting Behavioral Science Insights into Practice

One of the goals of the Behavioral Interventions to Advance Self-Sufficiency (BIAS), BIAS-Next Generation, and Behavioral Interventions for Child Support Services (BICS) projects is to help practitioners apply insights from behavioral science to their own programs. In recent months, the BIAS project has shared a number of resources in support of this goal.

November 2016

News from the BIAS project

Decades of behavioral science research have shown that “nudges” — small changes that aim to sway people in a certain direction — can work. Small tweaks to the design of a program or process can help people save money, improve their health, or avoid harm.

April 2016

Developing SIMPLER Solutions

BIAS has now completed 15 randomized controlled trials in child care, child support, and work support programs. While each intervention was designed to respond to unique challenges faced by particular programs, seven behavioral concepts were used in almost every site.

February 2016

News from the BIAS project

This issue of the Buzz focuses on past and future behavioral interventions tested by child support agencies, reminding readers of the findings from the BIAS child support tests and previewing the work of the BICS initiative.

September 2015

News from the BIAS project

Filling out an application is often the first step to participating in social services programs. However, some forms can be hard to complete. These barriers may prevent people from completing applications even if they need and want services.

April 2015

News from the BIAS project

We don’t always do what we intend to do. For instance, people sign up for gym memberships vowing to lose weight, only to give up after a few sessions. How can programs use what clients intend to do to help them actually do it?

January 2015

News from the BIAS project

The last issue focused on how personalization in written materials can help capture a person’s attention. But getting a reader’s interest is only half the battle. How can senders help ensure that a reader will absorb and act on the information being provided?