Skip to main content Skip to navigation

First Warwick behavioural science summit inspires international audience

  • WBIT summitStudent-led summit explored the latest advances in behavioural science
  • Boston University’s Professor Nina Mazar gave the keynote speech
  • Experts from OgilvyChange, HSBC, and FCA looked at practical examples of behavioural science theories

World Bank Senior Behavioural Scientist Nina Mazar was the keynote speaker at the inaugural Warwick Behavioural Science Summit, held on Friday 15 June at the University of Warwick's Oculus building and attended by about 200 delegates from the academic community, the civil service, and industry.

The Summit was created and organised by the student-run Warwick Behavioural Insights Team (WBIT), with academic support from Professor Daniel Read, Professor of Behavioural Science, and funding from the University of Warwick’s Behavioural Science Global Research Priority.

Professor Read said: “The research from behavioural science is finding practical applications in many areas. Over the last decade behavioural science has become an increasingly useful tool for policymakers and businesses, with insights being used in a range of areas from increasing organ donation to helping people manage their finances.”

Rishabh Kumar, co-founder of WBIT and one of the student organisers of the summit, said: “Behavioural Science is becoming increasingly significant as a field of study and we wanted to bring world-class speakers to Warwick for an event on the scale of the well-regarded Warwick Economics Summit. The main purpose was to bridge the gap between what learnt in our classes to what really happens in the practical word.”

In her keynote speech, Professor Mazar outlined some of the many ways in which insights from behavioural science are being used to shape policies, from setting the rules for self-driving cars to improving credit card repayment practices among US consumers.

Addressing the temptation to see behavioural science as a universal panacea, she said: “It is very important that we are humble. Behavioural science will not cure everything. I want to improve societal wellbeing, but there are other interventions and you have to think about what is cost effective. Nudges will work for a while but have a tendency to wear off - the more the behaviour is about habit, it is harder to change.”

Later in the day Dr Fadi Makki, of Qatar Behavioural Insights Unit, described how behavioural insights and nudging are being used to improve health and safety among the workers building Qatar’s World Cup stadiums: "Workers' welfare has been an issue. They have a forum where workers can bring their problems to the contractors, but it wasn't working - they were forgetting or not bringing enough information.

"So we used nudges. By giving one group of workers a notebook, they reported 32% more complaints than the control group without one."

Colin Strong of IPSOS asked whether technology is actively shaping our decision – making in ways we don’t properly understand: “We love our iPads and smartphones. We shape the tools, but then the tools shape us and history has shown us this. The telescope moved us from our lives being shaped by gods to being shaped by mathematics and science. The online world is visually immersive and context becomes everything. It is easy for us to move into a more instinctive mode of thinking. How should brands and public sector bodies respond? Behavioural science can help us understand how our mental processes are changing."

Delegates also heard talks from Chanuki Seresinhe, doctoral researcher at Warwick Business School and the Alan Turing Institute, Paul Adams, Co-founder of the Financial Conduct Authority’s Behavioural Economics and Data Science Unit, Ivo Vlaev, Professor of Behavioural Science at WBS, and Sam Tatum, Behavioural Strategy Director at OgilvyChange, the behavioural interventions practice of marketing and PR giant Ogilvy & Mather.

Rishabh Kumar added: “Conceptualised by students and run by students, this event shows the potential Warwick students have to make things happen. Some of the delegates had come from US, Ireland, and Italy and during the summit they said that they should have brought in more colleagues from their workplaces - and asked what dates they should reserve for WIBT 2019.”

The Behavioural Science group at Warwick Business School is the leading centre of its kind in Europe, at the forefront of research in psychology, economics and neuroscience, while heavily involved in real world applications. Supported by the Behavioural Science group, the Warwick Behavioural Insights Team is a student group which aims to apply Behavioural Science to solve university level problems and to engage the wider audience in the work done in Behavioural Science.

  • A three-day short course is being offered in November by Warwick Business School and the Behavioural Insights Team for anyone who wants to learn and apply behavioural science to their work and improve outcomes for others. The programme will cover key principles and current thinking in behavioural science, and how to apply them to research, design and test ideas.

Full information is available here:

20 June 2018


Ashley Potter

Press & PR Executive

Warwick Business School


External: +44 (0)24 765 73967

Mobile: +44 (0)7733 013264

Sheila Kiggins

Media Relations Manager

02476 150423

07876 218166