Biased Policy Professionals
31 Pages Posted: 24 Jul 2017
Date Written: June 26, 2017
A large literature focuses on the biases of individuals and consumers, as well as "nudges" and other policies that can address those biases. Although policy decisions are often more consequential than those of individual consumers, there is a dearth of studies on the biases of policy professionals: those who prepare and implement policy on behalf of elected politicians. Experiments conducted on a novel subject pool of development policy professionals (public servants of the World Bank and the Department for International Development in the United Kingdom) show that policy professionals are indeed subject to decision making traps, including sunk cost bias, the framing of losses and gains, frame-dependent risk-aversion, and, most strikingly, confirmation bias correlated with ideological priors, despite having an explicit mission to promote evidence-informed and impartial decision making. These findings should worry policy professionals and their principals in governments and large organizations, as well as citizens themselves. A further experiment, in which policy professionals engage in discussion, shows that deliberation may be able to mitigate the effects of some of these biases.
Keywords: Inequality, Public Sector Administrative and Civil Service Reform, Democratic Government, Non Governmental Organizations, Economics and Institutions, Public Sector Management and Reform, Public Sector Administrative & Civil Service Reform, De Facto Governments
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