Speak Your Mind: Behavioral Public Administration


“Speak Your Mind” is a PAR webpage feature that allows you to offer insights about big questions in public administration. The responses serve as a community forum for discussion of specific editorial contributions, and the format provides a platform for exchange of different ideas about how we think of public administration as a professional and scholarly enterprise.

For the month of February, Drs. Grimmelikhuijsen, Jilke, Olsen, and Tummers have graciously agreed to moderate this discussion. 

In our recent essay published in PAR, we describe a behavioral approach to public administration and how it can benefit both research and practice. We describe behavioral public administration (BPA) as “the interdisciplinary analysis of public administration from the micro-level perspective of individual behavior and attitudes by drawing on recent advances in our understanding of the underlying psychology and behavior of individuals and groups.” (Grimmelikhuijsen et al. 2017, 46). We received a lot of interest in this approach, and in this discussion we like to invite fellow colleagues to discuss and add to the following main issues.

1) A main goal we envision for BPA is to foster cross-disciplinary conversations. To truly make BPA a “two-way street” we will also ask scholars working in psychology and the behavioral sciences how they think public administration can contribute to their field of study and what questions they have for us. How can we jointly develop cross-disciplinary lines of research?  What are your insights on these questions? What future lines of research will be interesting for both psychologists and public administration scholars?


2) Some have argued that public administration scholarship has lost relevance and should therefore focus on “big questions” (Milward et al. 2016) and some might argue that the focus on the individual-level could narrow the field, neglecting larger societal developments. We envision BPA to complement other approaches and that there will be other scholars who look at macro-level societal developments.  What are your views about these issues?


Grimmelikhuijsen, S.G., S. Jilke, A.L. Olsen, and L.G. Tummers. 2017. Behavioral public administration: combining insights from public administration and psychology. Public Administration Review 77(1): 45-56.

Milward, B., L. Jensen, A. Roberts, M.I. Dussauge-Laguna, V. Junjan, R. Torenvlied, A. Boin, H. K. Colebatch, D. Kettl and R. Durant. Is Public Management Neglecting the State? Governance 29(3): 311-334.

2 responses

  1. One particularly fruitful avenue for further research would be to bridge research on how citizens interact with the public sector – the focus of BPA – with research on how voters interact with the political system – the focus of the more traditional political science research. There are many areas where one can imagine cross fertilization. For instance, what role does political elites play in shaping citizens trust in the information published by public agencies? And what consequences does this have for the extent to which citizens let information published by these agencies affect their beliefs about the state of the world? More research on would advance our knowledge of both the public administration and political behavior.

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