Goldman School of Public Policy - University of California, Berkeley

Daniel J. Acland

Assistant Professor of Practice in Public Policy

Areas of Expertise

  • Benefit-Cost Analysis
  • Behavioral Economics
  • Behavior Change
  • Public Health


Dan Acland is a behavioral economist whose research focuses on the theory, practice, and political science of behavior change. In addition he is a specialist in benefit-cost analysis and cost-effectiveness analysis.  Past work has included a field experimental test of behavioral-economic theories of habit-formation and health-related behavior change, as well as a large-scale online experiment on the effectiveness of voluntary self-control mechanisms for online game players. Current and ongoing projects include development of a theoretical model of bounded rationality in future self-control beliefs and an online survey-experiment test of the political psychological dimensions of behavioral-economic inspired public policy agendas. In addition, Dr. Acland has collaborated on a cost-effectiveness study of incentives for HIV peer-recruitment, and on a comparison of the theoretical foundations of financial incentives and gamification for public-health related behavior change.  Dr. Acland is an active member of the interdisciplinary Behavior Change Research Network at U.C. Berkeley. His teaching includes a graduate class in benefit-cost analysis, and an undergraduate class in behavioral-economics and public policy.


Curriculum Vitae

Download a PDF (26KB, updated 04-10-2014)

Working Papers

  • Naiveté, Projection Bias, and Habit Formation in Gym Attendance

    Co-author: Matthew Levy

    GSPP Working Paper (December 2013)

    We develop a model capturing habit formation, projection bias, and present bias, and conduct a fi eld experiment to identify its main parameters. We implement an exogenous habit-formation intervention, and elicit subjects' predictions of post-treatment gym attendance: projection-biased subjects will underestimate habit-formation; naive present-biased subjects will overestimate attendance. We fi nd subjects form a signi cant short-run habit, but appear not to predict this habit ex-ante. Approximately one-third of subjects formed a habit, equivalent on average to the e ect of a $2.60 per-visit subsidy. Their predictions correspond to 90%  projection bias. The small post-treatment incentives involved in our elicitation mechanism appear to crowd-out the new habit, as subjects appear to correctly predict. Subjects greatly over-predict future attendance, which we interpret as evidence of partial naivete with respect to present bias: they appear to expect their future selves to be two-thirds less present biased" than they currently are. The combination of naivete and projection bias helps explain limited take-up of commitment devices by dynamically inconsistent agents, and points to new forms of contracts.

    Download a PDF (883KB)

Additional Stuff

Undergraduate behavioral economics course materials.

  • Lecture videos
  • Lecture handouts, solved problem sets, solved exams, and syllabus will be posted as soon as I can figure out how to upload documents.