Meet the IIU’s Behavioural Science Fellow: Jacob Graham

What attracted you to apply to the Fellowship program?

I was attracted to the Fellowship program by the clear focus on bringing and implementing effective and meaningful behavioural science insights to policy spaces. Behavioural science related fields are at the forefront of innovative research, and I appreciate that the Fellowship program embraces and promotes the growth of this field.

What work in the field of Behavioural Science has inspired you?

My primary source of inspiration in the field of Behavioural Science is the work of Amos Tversky and Daniel Kahneman, specifically their work on critiquing and refining the theory of expected utility and proposing prospect theory. As someone who enjoys studying and viewing problems through the lens of applied game theory and consumer theory, Tversky and Kahneman’s work continues to provide me with a refreshing perspective on the decision making process under uncertainty.

What unique perspectives do you bring to this work, as someone entering the public service for the first time?

My background is in economics, with a focus on game theory, consumer theory, behavioural economics, and labour theory. The problems I find most interesting are ones where individuals are faced with the challenge of making rational decisions under constraints or uncertainty. My master’s thesis focused on work-from-home policies during COVID-19, and my previous work with the Canada Energy Regulator focused on the alternative green energy strategies for transportation. This experience provides me with useful insight into the theoretical modelling and practical application of individual choice structure, and I look forward to bringing these insights to the public service.

In what way(s) do you believe the application of Behavioural Science can improve government policies and/or programs?

Behavioural Science has the ability to humanize our modelling of individual behaviour, preferences, and choice structure. By implementing behavioural insights into modelling, researchers can develop more sound theory and better advise policymakers. Specifically, policymakers can continue to structure strategies based on theory which reflects human behaviour, leading to more desirable and achievable policy outcomes.