Potential Research Priorities to be Evaluated
To identify potentially important behavioral science research topics, we have run two-step process. In the first step, the broader behavioral science community proposed what they thought could be the most important questions for the behavioral sciences. In the second step, a subset of those proposals was selected through a combination of three processes: i) nomination by a sufficiently large number of experts, and ii) a community-wide democratic voting process, and iii) approval by a majority of the voting experts. The experts were leading behavioral scientists that we selected based on their track record and expertise. A list of these experts and their areas of expertise is attached as a separate document. This process led to the selection of the following topics. We regard these topics as potential candidates for an in-depth analysis by our method.
· How can we make people more interested in learning and thinking about facts and perspectives that challenge their beliefs?
· How can we help people to identify their nascent pro-environmental and pro-social goals that they are currently NOT acting upon, to increase the priority they place on those goals, and to identify and overcome the obstacles that block pursuit and successful pursuit of those goals?
· How can we make people care more about future generations?
· Develop an effective intervention that significantly increases the frequency with which people (effectively) enact their altruistic values.
· How can we make people care (more) about the well-being of others?
· How can we support students in developing core skills beyond classical abilities and aptitudes, in particular metacognition and self-regulated learning? Both are key to successful learning outcomes across the lifespan.
· How do we bolster the effectiveness of rational argumentation for well-doing? How can we persuade people to do well without undermining their decision autonomy?
· What situational, cognitive, and social factors are more likely to motivate versus demotivate the poor to escape their poverty trap and, more broadly, those in need to escape their need-state? What causes aid take-up failures?
· How can we motivate people to become more moral and realize these “change goals” in a sustainable way?
· How can we develop a catalog of effective interventions capable to propagate social behaviors that can maximize the upside of moral self-improvement and minimize the downsides of moral self-defense?
· How can we protect people from persuasion that is bad for them and bad for others, and encourage better resource reallocation?
· Why are we not doing more, as individuals and as a society, to reduce the risk of existential disasters? And what can we do to change that?
· How can we help researchers to do more impactful research?
· How can we improve interventions that help people use their cognitive abilities to make themselves happier, less anxious, and help them find satisfaction in working towards realistic long-term goals and values?
· How can we prevent science from being used as a political tool?
· How cost-effective are school-based interventions for improving rationality and practical ethics?
· How do we foster 21st century skills beyond what is classically taught in school (e.g., mathematics, science) including important skills such as problem-solving, collaboration, teamwork, creativity? How can we support lifelong learners in taking active stock of their own set of 21st century skills?
· How can we design decision-making settings for sustainability-oriented changes in practices in ways that incorporate people's deeply social interest in social bonding as well as social distinction? (areas: e.g., vegetarian diets, non-fossil-fuel transportation, etc.)
· Identify which socio-cultural factors that have a strong impact on effective well-doing can be changed most easily.
· How can we enhance caring for the well-being of distant and future others, and motivate people to consider how their actions impact it?
· Discover effective cognitive strategies for goal-setting and planning and a way of conveying those strategies to people that together significantly improve people’s performance in the real-world.
· How do people respond to information about "per-dollar-effectiveness" of interventions in making charitable and public/community decisions?
· What can (behavioral) science contribute to helping people live a climate-friendly life?
· What can science do to motivate people to engage in those happiness-increasing interventions that have the highest benefit for them?
· What interventions on reflective reasoning (individual and group-based) and conditions (e.g., incentives) lead to improved ability to evaluate arguments and evidence according to their logical validity and soundness (rather than heuristics such as the identity of their source, the believability of their conclusions, etc.)—and, therefore, depolarize polarized topics (e.g., immigration policy, healthcare policy, etc.)
· Can we create timed personalized interventions to improve the successful pursuit of personal goals?
· What are the triggers to empower people to flourish? How can we build a society culture of human flourishing?
· How do we improve human judgment about the future? How do we get important people to use these strategies?
· Develop interventions that reduce the prevalence of psychological and physical abuse of children and adolescents perpetrated by their parents and/or other children and adolescents by at least 20% over a period of at least 3 months within a community of at least 300 people compared to an equivalent active control group.
· What interventions are most promising for encouraging young people to develop life-long prosocial habits and ways of living?
· How can we mitigate people's tendency to care disproportionately about their in-group (e.g. race, ideology, nation, etc.) versus out-groups?
· How do we help people maintain agency in the face of digital technology's challenges to their attention and its skill in manipulation?
· How can we cultivate changemakers--people with both the altruistic motivations and the competencies necessary for well-doing/changemaking (i.e., creating positive societal change)?
· Identify the most cost-effective intervention(s) for sustainably improving the living conditions of underprivileged people so that they can more effectively pursue their intrinsic values.
· What are the most widely held misconceptions that people have that interfere with their own (or others’) wellbeing?
· What factors underlie how people choose which causes they prioritize, and what interventions would lead people to “invest” in more impactful causes?