Conceptual Framework

Behavioral economics examines why individuals make decisions that compromise their own future wellbeing and the welfare of others. It incorporates psychological insights to examine systematic behavioral biases in decision-making. We categorize these biases into four spectra that individuals, often unknowingly, make decisions along.

Self v. Other; Today v. Tomorrow; Illusion v. Reality; & Thinking fast v. Thinking slow. 


Ease vs Deliberation_TM






We then leverage several tools from behavioral economics that may improve reproductive health. Each of the tools addresses one or more of the spectra listed above. Please note the selected examples are not policy or program recommendations but rather illustrations of how a behavioral economics tool could be translated into the reproductive health context. These have not necessarily been researched or evaluated.

Click on each tool to learn more about the existing evidence and areas for further research.

Tool Description Selected Examples

The option an individual will receive if he or she does
not make an active choice.

Offering every woman contraception immediately following childbirth, an abortion, or first menses

Reminders can help decrease the cognitive burden
required to sequence or complete a complex task.

Text message reminders for contraceptive refills or antenatal care appointments

The language used to describe a set of choices can
shape people’s decision-making.

Varying education or counseling to present antenatal check-ups as a gain versus avoided loss
Commitment Devices

Pre-committing to a particular decision can help people
align their actions with their preferences.

“Locked” savings programs that tie money to specific school or health outcomes

Exploiting an individual’s “mental accounting” to
encourage spending on investment goods that will
benefit his or her own welfare.

Cash transfers or voluntary savings labeled for health or education expenditures
Small Incentives

Token rewards, particularly those creating social
recognition or salience, can be more motivating
than the monetary value of the reward.

Vouchers or in-kind gifts to reward health worker performance or patient compliance
Social Influences

Harnessing social norms or pressures to encourage
beneficial decision-making can be used to overcome

Publicly available report cards for providers to increase accountability and transparency
Timing & Salience of Information

Presenting information in a targeted way, at a specific
time, or through a particular agent.

Provision of information through trusted sources or changing the word order on outreach materials
Identity Priming

Increasing the prominence of an individual’s gender, race,
or role can be used to make certain choices more salient.

Appealing to women as mothers, rather than wives

Making the terms of a decision more clearly understood,
at the correct moment in time, can reduce the biases and
cognitive costs of decision-making.

Minimizing paperwork at clinic visits and streamlining counseling materials

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