Applied Projects

I have also begun to investigate the applications of judgment and decision making research to more pressing societal problems. Some examples are the psychology of climate change, potential for applying behavioural science to policy, and retirement planning.

The climate change research investigates the role psychology plays in climate change belief, denial, and subsequent action (e.g., Newell et al., 2014). More specifically, the role of uncertainty (Lewandowsky et al., 2014), the impact of question and policy framing (Hurlstone et al., 2014), ‘psychological distance’ to climate events (McDonald, Chai, & Newell, 2015), the role of understanding basic climate facts in determining behaviour (Newell et al., 2016), and the ways in which compelling scientific arguments can be presented (Kary et al., 2018) An extensive survey and model of Australians’ attitudes to the risks posed by climate change and their willingness to take action is currently being finalised for publication (Xie et al, 2019).

Another important downstream area is the interplay between science and government. This work builds on my role as an Advisor to the Behavioral Economics Team of the Australian Government and ask how both behavioural and social sciences should inform policy decisions for the benefit of scientific research and society as a whole (Bolton & Newell, 2017). Current PhD student Annalese Bolton is driving a ‘behavioural insights’ approach to the extremely important area of child protection.

Finally, in the area of retirement planning I have worked with colleagues from economics (Hazel Bateman, Andreas Ortmann, Isabella Dobrescu) and finance (Susan Thorp) to investigate ways of improving engagement and decision-making among pension-plan members (e.g. Bateman et al., 2016; Dobrescu et al., 2018).