Meet the IIU’s Behavioural Science Fellow: Kaian Unwalla

Impact Canada
2 min readNov 21, 2022


Kaian Unwalla

What work in the field of behavioural science has inspired you?

My interest in behavioural science began during my undergraduate psychology classes when I learned that our perception of the world is not a veridical account of events. Instead, it is a reconstruction based on our memory, attention, attitudes, and beliefs. When you approach a situation with this lens, you gain a much deeper understanding and insight into why we behave the way we do in certain circumstances.

In what way do you believe the application of behavioural science can effectively support Canada’s response to climate change?

One of the first things you learn in human psychology is that there is a disconnect between what people say (their intentions) and what people do (their actions). This is prevalent in all aspects of our lives, and climate change is no exception. Most people care about the environment but struggle to take meaningful actions to combat climate change. By approaching climate change with a behavioural science lens, you are able to better understand peoples’ unconscious biases that may serve as barriers to action. Once you understand these biases, then you can work to address these to help combat climate change.

Based on your skills and past experience, what unique perspectives do you bring to this work?

My background is in cognitive and perceptual psychology. This area of psychology focuses on understanding how people perceive and function in the world. This provides me with knowledge of the ways people create mental representations of past experiences, and then use their past experiences and biases to understand current events. This perspective provides me with unique insights into an individual’s actions and behaviours, which I look forward to applying in this role.

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

My perspective is largely driven by my academic background and the experiences gained as a market researcher. Throughout graduate school I was exposed to a broad range of psychological disciplines including cognitive and perceptual psychology, clinical psychology, and social psychology. These positions provided me with a strong research foundation and the ability to translate research into actionable insights. I look forward to bringing this perspective to the public service.