Hitotsubashi Institute for Advanced Study


Biased Policy Professionals


Although the decisions of policy professionals are often more consequential than those of individuals in their private capacity, there is a dearth of studies on the biases of policy professionals: those who prepare and implement policy on behalf of elected politicians. Experiments conducted on a novel subject pool of development policy professionals (public servants of the World Bank and the Department for International Development in the UK) show that policy professionals are indeed subject to decision making taps, including the effects of framing outcomes as losses or gains, and most strikingly, confirmation bias driven by ideologic predisposition, despite having an explicit mission to promote evidence-informed and impartial decision making. These findings should worry policy professionals and their principals in governments and large organizations, as well as citizens themselves. A further experiment, in which policy professionals engage in discussion, shows that deliberation may be able to mitigate the effects of some of there biases.

Report No.: HIAS-E-81
Author(s): Sheheryar Banuri(a)
Stefan Dercon(b)
Varun Gaurs(c)
Affiliation: (a) University of East Anglia, Norwich, UK
(b) University of Oxford
(c) World Bank
Issued Date: December 2018
Keywords: biases, decision making, policy professionals, framing, confirmation bias, behavioral economics
JEL: C90, H83, Z18