Applied Projects
I have several projects examining the applications of judgment and decision-making research to more pressing societal problems. Some examples are the psychology of climate change, child protection, and retirement planning, and the broader potential for applying behavioural science to policy.
The psychology of climate change
The climate change research investigates the role psychology plays in climate change belief, denial, and subsequent action (e.g., Newell & Moss, 2022; 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 was published in 2019 (Xie et al, 2019).
Behavioural science and public policy
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). Former PhD student Annalese Bolton is driving a 'behavioural insights' approach to the extremely important area of child protection. We published the first randomized control trial examining how feedback can improve mandatory reporting of suspected child-abuse (Bolton et al., 2019).
Retirement planning
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; Thorp et al., 2020). PhD student Nathan Wang-Ly is involved in this work combining lab-based experiments on choice under uncertainty with field-based studies of financial behaviour.
Health in aged care
In an NHMRC funded project beginning in 2022 I will collaborate with colleagues across Australia in applying behavioral insights techniques to target the overuse of antipsychotics and antibiotics in aged care.