NoBeC Talk: Unstandard deviation: Using positive deviance in behavioral policy to reduce inequalities

Thursday, March 24, 2022 - 1:00pm to 2:15pm

281 Claire Fagin Hall (and broadcasted through Zoom)

NoBeC (Norms and Behavioral Change) Talks showcase interdisciplinary early career and senior researchers working on norms and behavioral change around the world.


Kai Ruggeri (Columbia University)
Assistant Professor, School of Public Health
Director, Global Behavioral Science (GLOBES) Program
Author of the book “Behavioral Insights for Public Policy: Concept and Cases"

Talk abstract: Behavioral science is increasingly used in public policy to understand and address various manifestations of inequalities. Yet evidence from effective population-level interventions is limited. One framework, known as positive deviance, emphasizes individuals from disadvantaged circumstances who have significantly better outcomes than are typical for their group. Studying their behaviors and outcomes helps to understand what might explain their overall success. It can also help to incorporate those insights in such a way that would facilitate others from these circumstances to experience positive outcomes. Because positive deviance has been markedly understudied, we present a framework for doing so specifically within behavioral science for public policies aimed at reducing inequalities. Using examples from realworld and experimental insights on choices and outcomes of positive deviants, we encourage further study of their choices and trajectories over time to produce valuable insights. We propose that leveraging those findings would inform public policy by introducing interventions that are more ecologically sound and population relevant, and consequently have a better chance at benefiting those who start off under adverse circumstances.

Open to Penn students, faculty and staff with previous registration at:

Event Type: