Behavioral Science and Human-Centered Design

Putting human behavior at the center of program design and program improvement efforts.

An Interdisciplinary Approach

Meet the Expert:
Amy Johnson
Senior Fellow

Drawing on key tenants of economics, sociology, and psychology, behavioral science focuses on the causes of individual, group, and organizational behavior, and on decision making behaviors in particular.

Small Tweaks Make a Big Difference

Through the principles of behavioral science, researchers have found that small changes to the way we structure programs can have a large impact on how people use program services.

Who Should Use Behavioral Science and for What?

Behavioral science can help administrators improve program effectiveness by identifying potential obstacles to participation and designing interventions to help overcome these obstacles. Through human-centered interventions  such as a simple telephone reminders, postcards, and personalized emails, administrators can test potential improvements in program effectiveness at a relatively low cost.

Mathematica’s Six-Step Approach to Behavioral Science: Effective and Easy to Follow


We partner with our clients to understand the problem they want to solve.


We map out the behavioral bottlenecks that may contribute to the problem.


We design program modifications or interventions and rigorous evaluations to assess their impacts.


We train frontline staff to implement the intervention and provide ongoing support.


We design rigorous, low-cost evaluation strategies to quickly determine whether the solution works.


We communicate what we find clearly, concisely, and promptly and suggest next steps.