Behavioural and experimental public administration: Emerging contributions and new directions

Date01 December 2017
AuthorGregg G. Van Ryzin,Sebastian R. Jilke,Oliver James
Published date01 December 2017
Behavioural and experimental public
administration: Emerging contributions and new
Oliver James
| Sebastian R. Jilke
| Gregg G. Van Ryzin
Department of Politics, University of Exeter,
Exeter, UK
School of Public Affairs and Administration,
Rutgers University, Newark, New Jersey, USA
Oliver James, Department of Politics,
University of Exeter, Amory Building, Rennes
Drive, Exeter EX4 4RJ, UK.
This article introduces the symposium on the emerging subfield of
behavioural public administration. The nine articles of the sympo-
sium each combine a focus on behavioural theory with the use of
experiments as the method for testing theoretical expectations.
The contribution of this work to public administration theory is
revealed in the expanding set of insights into core topic areas, and
there are associated contributions to public administration as a
design science informing policy and practice. We analyse the vari-
ety of experimental methods employed by investigators in the sub-
field and the current relative popularity of survey experiments. We
note maturation of the subfield embodied in emerging pro-
grammes of multiple experiments on particular topic areas. In con-
clusion, we propose directions for future research in which
behavioural public administration develops as complementary to
more established approaches to theory and method.
This symposium focuses on the emerging subfield of behavioural public administration. In common with a range of
related disciplines, researchers in public administration increasingly draw on psychology and behavioural sciences in
their work. Behavioural public administration focuses on the micro-perspective of individual behaviour and attitudes
and employs insights from behavioural sciences to inform research on individuals and groups in public administra-
tion settings (Jilke 2015; Grimmelikhuijsen et al. 2017). Much of this behavioural research within public administra-
tion uses experiments as a method for empirical investigation. Experiments are well suited to studying individuals
and groups as the unit of analysis. They provide evidence about the micro-foundations of aggregate phenomena,
especially for estimating causal effects to test the empirical expectations of theory (James et al. 2017, 2017a).
The focus of this symposium is on studies that can be classified as both behavioural and experimental. The first
section of this article articulates the relationship between behavioural public administration and experiments as a
method. The second section sets out the contributions of the articles in the symposium to behavioural public admin-
istration theory. As well as benefiting theory, we describe the recommendations that flow from the findings that
DOI: 10.1111/padm.12363
Public Administration. 2017;95:865873. © 2017 John Wiley & Sons Ltd 865

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