Psychological Governance and Public Policy : Governing the mind, brain and behaviour book cover
1st Edition

Psychological Governance and Public Policy
Governing the mind, brain and behaviour

ISBN 9781138930735
Published November 10, 2016 by Routledge
168 Pages

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Book Description

There have been significant developments in the state of psychological, neuroscientific and behavioural scientific knowledge relating to the human mind, brain, action and decision-making over the past two decades. These developments have influenced public policy making and popular culture in the UK and elsewhere – through policies and emerging social practices focussed on behavioural change, happiness, wellbeing, therapy, resilience and character. Yet little attention has been paid to examining the wider political and ethical significance of the widespread use of psychological governance techniques. There is a pressing and recognised need to address the behaviour change agenda in relation to how our cultural ideas about the brain, mind, behaviour and self are changing.

This book provides a critical account of existing forms of psychological governance in relation to public policy. It asks whether we can speak of a co-ordinated and novel shift in governance or, rather, whether these trends are more simply pragmatic policy tools based on advances in scientific evidence. With contributions from leading scholars across the social sciences from the UK, the USA and Canada, chapters identify practical, political and research challenges posed by the current policy enthusiasm for particular branches of affective neuroscience, behavioural economics, positive psychology and happiness economics. The core focus of this book is to investigate the ways in which knowledge about the mind, brain and behaviour has informed the methods and techniques of governance and to explore the implications of this for shaping citizen identity and social practice.

This groundbreaking book will be of interest to students, scholars and policy-makers interested and working within geography, economics, sociology, psychology, politics and cultural studies.

Table of Contents



Notes on contributors

  1. Introduction: psychological governance and public policy.
    Jessica Pykett, Rhys Jones and Mark Whitehead
  2. The politics of silent citizenship: psychological government and the ‘facts’ of happiness
    William Davies
  3. Happiness as resource and resilience: an emotion for neoliberal times
    Sam Binkley
  4. Therapeutic governance of psycho-emotionally vulnerable citizens: new subjectivities, new experts and new dangers
    Kathryn Ecclestone
  5. Psychology as practical biopolitics
    The Midlands Psychology Group: John Cromby, Bob Diamond, Paul Kelly, Paul Moloney, Penny Priest and Jan Soffe-Caswell
  6. ‘What about the children?’ Re-engineering citizens of the future
    Val Gillies and Rosalind Edwards
  7. The imperative to shape young brains: mindfulness as a neuroeducational intervention
    Alberto Sánchez-Allred and Suparna Choudhury

  8. Behavioural science, randomized evaluations and the transformation of public policy: the case of the UK government
    Peter John


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Jessica Pykett is a social and political geographer at the University of Birmingham, UK.

Rhys Jones is Professor of Human Geography at Aberystwyth University, UK.

Mark Whitehead is Professor of Human Geography at Aberystwyth University, UK.