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Book Chapter

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Policy makers typically approach human behavior from the perspective of the rational agent model, which relics on normativc, a priori analyses. The model assumes people make insightful, well-planned, highly controlled, and calculated decisions guided by considerations of personal utility. This perspective is promoted in the social sciences and in professional schools and has come to dominate much of the formulation and conduct of policy. An alternative view, developed mostly through empirical behavioral research, and the one we will articulate here, provides a substantially difierent perspective on individual behavior and its policy and regulatory implications. According to the empirical perspective, behavior is the amalgam of perceptions, impulses, judgments, and decision processes that emerge from the impressive machinery that people carry behind the eyes and between the ears. Actual human behavior, it is argued, is often unforeseen and misunderstood by classical policy thinking. A more nuanced behavioral perspective, it is suggested, can yield deeper understanding and improved regulatory insight.