Meet the IIU’s New Behavioural Science Fellow: Elliot MacDonell
What made you decide to apply for the Fellowship program?
I have a longstanding interest in behavioural science and its meaningful application across contexts. The Fellowship program is an exciting opportunity to apply my knowledge and research skills to challenges across of variety of critical sectors and help to improve the lives of Canadians. Further, the Fellowship program offers many opportunities to collaboratively engage with, and learn from, different stakeholders across the country, helping me to build my skills in teamwork and maximize outcomes for all Canadians.
What unique perspectives do you bring to this work, as someone entering the public service for the first time?
My research and educational backgrounds are diverse, having collaborated with researchers across different fields and worked as an educator across numerous psychological disciplines, such as Personality, Forensic Psychology, Social Psychology, and Psychometrics. I feel that this blend of experiences will help to broaden my thinking and approach to different challenges and will assist when collaborating with different stakeholder groups. I have also been fortunate enough to develop my skills in psychological measurement and test construction, which I believe will prepare me to assess relevant constructs effectively and accurately with the Impact and Innovation team.
What is it that you find most fascinating or captivating about the application of Behavioural Science to the Canadian government?
As a researcher, I am eager to use scientific findings and knowledge to tackle important problems and make an impact. The idea of taking insights gained from more controlled/restrictive contexts and testing them in real-world settings is fascinating and something that I am excited to be a part of. Ultimately, I am deeply interested in the link between research and practice, and encouraged by the Canadian government’s evidence-based approach to decision-making to improve policy.
What work in the field of Behavioural Science has inspired you?
I am inspired by previous work on decision-making across different contexts. In particular, I’m inspired by investigations exploring how implicit biases and heuristics impact identity formation and the choices we make — both as individuals and within groups. A classic article from John Bargh and Tanya Chartrand entitled “The unbearable automaticity of being”, does a wonderful job of highlighting how powerful and influential our unconscious processes can be in terms of regulating behaviour and the decisions that we feel are within our conscious control. These insights have far-reaching applications, which has motivated me to further investigate their implications and relevance to real-world problems.