How to measure behavioral spillovers: A methodological review and checklist

Matteo M. Galizzi, Lorraine Whitmarsh

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

50 Citations (SciVal)


A growing stream of literature at the interface between economics and psychology is currently investigating 'behavioral spillovers' in (and across) different domains, including health, environmental, and pro-social behaviors. A variety of empirical methods have been used to measure behavioral spillovers to date, from qualitative self-reports to statistical/econometric analyses, from online and lab experiments to field experiments. The aim of this paper is to critically review the main experimental and non-experimental methods to measure behavioral spillovers to date, and to discuss their methodological strengths and weaknesses. A consensus mixed-method approach is then discussed which uses between-subjects randomization and behavioral observations together with qualitative self-reports in a longitudinal design in order to follow up subjects over time. In particular, participants to an experiment are randomly assigned to a treatment group where a behavioral intervention takes place to target behavior 1, or to a control group where behavior 1 takes place absent any behavioral intervention. A behavioral spillover is empirically identified as the effect of the behavioral intervention in the treatment group on a subsequent, not targeted, behavior 2, compared to the corresponding change in behavior 2 in the control group. Unexpected spillovers and additional insights (e.g., drivers, barriers, mechanisms) are elicited through analysis of qualitative data. In the spirit of the pre-analysis plan, a systematic checklist is finally proposed to guide researchers and policy-makers through the main stages and features of the study design in order to rigorously test and identify behavioral spillovers, and to favor transparency, replicability, and meta-analysis of studies.

Original languageEnglish
Article number342
JournalFrontiers in Psychology
Issue numberAPR
Publication statusPublished - 5 Apr 2019


  • Behavioral spillovers
  • Experimental design
  • Lab-field experiments
  • Mixed-methods
  • Spillovers

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology(all)


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