Paul Dolan is an internationally renowned expert on happiness, behaviour and public policy and has over 100 peer-reviewed publications. He has worked with Nobel Laureate Daniel Kahneman at Princeton University, written the wellbeing questions for the Office for National Statistics, was seconded to the UK Cabinet Office, and he regularly advises global corporations on Behavioural Science.He is currently a Professor of Behavioural Science in the Department of Social Policy at the London School of Economics and Political Science and Director of the new Executive MSc in Behavioural Science.
Paul’s debut and best-selling book ‘Happiness by Design’ was published on the 28th August 2014.
There are three main themes to Paul’s work:
- Developing measures of happiness and subjective wellbeing that can be used in policy and by individuals looking to be happier.
- Considering ways in which the lessons from the behavioural sciences can be used to understand and change individual behaviour, and to add to the evidence base in this regard.
- Using lab and field experiments to address major challenges, such as the impact of interventions on people’s lives and on their behaviour.
His first achievements were in developing ways of valuing health so that resources can be allocated more efficiently. His research then focussed on how to account for fairness in measures of benefit, developing ways to weight QALYs according to potentially important characteristics of the recipient.The policy impact of his work in health was recognised more widely by his appointment in 2008 as Chief Academic Advisor to the UK Government Economic Service on Economic appraisal.
His international reputation has been further advanced by an invitation from Nobel Laureate Professor Daniel Kahneman to work with him at Princeton in 2004-5. Since his time at Princeton, he has focussed on more direct measures of wellbeing. He has been developing measures that capture both ‘pleasure’ and ‘purpose’.
‘Being happier means allocating attention more efficiently; towards those things that bring us pleasure and purpose and away from those that generate pain and pointlessness Easier said than done of course, and certainly easier than thought about. But behavioural science teaches us that most of what we do simply come about rather than being thought about. So, by clever use of priming, defaults, commitments, norms, you can become a whole lot happier without actually having to think too hard about it.’
He is a member of the National Wellbeing Advisory Forum for the Office of National Statistics in the UK, and was lead author of a report that made the recommendations to the ONS about what happiness questions to include in large-scale national surveys. He is also advising the National Academy of Sciences in the US on measurement issues in happiness research.
Over the past few years, he has begun exploring the influences of automatic responses on individual behaviour, and how these relate to our preferences, health and wellbeing. He was an author of the “Mindspace” report for the UK Cabinet Office. “Mindspace” is a mnemonic for the nine most robust effects on behaviour that operate largely, but not exclusively, through our automatic system (the part of our brain that responds unconsciously to contextual influences). His work on Mindspace is being used across the public and private sectors.