I've been writing a lot about government ethics and behavioral
psychology over the last few years. I consider some of the findings
of behavioral psychology, especially about blind spots, essential to
understanding what leads to ethical misconduct and, therefore,
essential to ethics training, ethics advice, and ethics enforcement.
But behavioral psychology has not yet been embraced by American
government ethics programs, at least as far as I have seen.
The first reason that comes to mind is that behavioral psychology is
great for thinking about ethical misconduct, but isn't useful to
prevent it. This argument might work in the United States, but not
in the United Kingdom, as an
article in yesterday's New York Times Business section
In 2010, the U.K. established a Behavioral Insights Team, more
popularly known as the "nudge unit," after the American book Nudge
by Richard H. Thaler and Cass R. Sunstein
(2008). One example
of a nudge unit experiment is testing different reminder letters to
people who haven’t paid their taxes. "One nudge was a sentence
telling recipients that a majority of people in their community had
already paid their taxes. Another said that most people who owe a
similar amount of tax had paid. Both messages bolstered tax
collection, and combining them had an even stronger effect."