Behavioral science informs risk insights

Future of risk series: Trend three

Behavioral science is the study of human behavior through systematic research and scientific methods, drawing from psychology, neuroscience, cognitive science, and the social sciences. There is increasing demand for these skills in the business world—including risk organizations. What drives risky behavior? How do cognitive biases lead people to wrongly assess risk? How can risky behaviors be detected and modified? These are the types of questions leading organizations are looking to answer with behavioral science. In fact, some Fortune 500 companies today even have a Chief Behavioral Officer at the C-suite level.

What forces are driving this trend?

Increasing interdisciplinary research across fields such as cognitive science, psychology, economics, and neuroscience
Renewed interest in making technology products intuitive for usage
Growing popularity of behavioral economics to inform decision-making
Early successes in commercializing gamification

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What are the opportunities?

  • “Design interventions” to help executives overcome the influence of cognitive biases in decision-making
  • Improved systems for monitoring high-risk individuals in sensitive roles
  • More effective risk, forensics, and financial-transaction-related business processes

What are potential threats and pitfalls?

  • Risk of regulatory action in case of perceived misuse of behavioral interventions
  • Backlash from employees and executives who see behavioral interventions as an impingement of free will
  • Slow (or no) return on investments in organizing complex behavioral interventions

Case studies: Where is this trend already in play?

Fujitsu has built a platform that uses psychological profiling to ramp up computer security in the workplace. This enterprise tool aims to identify workers who are most vulnerable to cyberattacks and also gives advice on how to sidestep them, based on their behavior while checking and sending emails, and browsing the web. This was developed after consulting social psychology experts and surveying more than 2,000 Japanese users, half of whom had experienced attacks, to determine which traits make some users more vulnerable to viruses, scams, and data leaks.1

Mi3 Security (formerly MetaIntell), a cloud-based mobile risk management company, recently brought onboard a behavioral science expert as a technical solutions and business advisor in the office of the CEO.2

Hand hygiene company DebMed offers an electronic hand hygiene compliance monitoring system that seeks to measure the compliance level of an entire unit instead of individual performance. It predicts expected hand hygiene opportunities by taking into account unique conditions of each hospital unit, such as census and nurse-to-patient ratio. This aims to promote a spirit of collaboration and accountability while also providing actionable feedback for the group without singling out individuals.3

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Tim Hornyak, “Fujitsu psychology tool profiles users for risk of cyberattacks,” Computerworld, January 21, 2015,; Mike Wheatley, “Fujitsu uses psychological profiling to defend against cyberattacks,” SiliconANGLE, January 26, 2015,
; “Fighting back against the threat of new cyber-attacks with the power of ICT,” Fujitsu Journal, May 29, 2015,

2 “Renowned cyber intelligence and behavioral science expert Dr. Terry Gudaitis joins Metalntell,” Business Wire, May 06, 2014,

Debmed, “About us,”

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