Types of boosts
What types of boosts are there?
There are different, somewhat overlapping perspectives on how to categorize or cluster boosts. Here we will discuss the following perspectives:
Currently we provide in-depth information on the following domain on scienceofboosting.org: digital boosts for dealing with the digital ecosystem
However, boosting applies to many domains that are central to today’s discourse in public policy and society more general, for example:
- health and medical decisions,
- financial decision making,
- weather- and climate related behavior;
see the review and references in Hertwig & Grüne-Yanoff, 2017). We are in the process of adding more domains to this website.
The pursuit of efficient and evidence-based ways to empower people by fostering their competences is clearly not a new endeavor, but part of a time-honored tradition across diverse research fields (which to differing degrees also map onto domains), such as
- educational science (Weinert, 2001),
- health science (Sørensen et al., 2012),
- clinical psychology (Blagys & Hilsenroth, 2002),
- counseling psychology (Brown & Lent, 2008),
- economics and finance (Kaiser et al., 2021),
- community psychology (Zimmerman, 2000), and
- lifespan psychology (Baltes et al., 1999),
- wisdom research (Staudinger & Glück, 2011),
- management science (Conger & Kanungo, 1988),
to name but a few. We suggest that these disparate approaches, which all target competences, can be subsumed under the umbrella concept of boosting, even if the original research was framed differently. Mapping out these connections to unearth the potential of integrating these research frameworks is still an open task, which we have started to tackle.
Boosts can extend the repertoire of decision-making strategies, skills, and knowledge or change the environment in which decisions are made. They can also do both. See the digital boosts page, where you can find examples for digital boosts that foster cognitive competences and examples of boosting via changing the digital environments.
There are at least three conceptually different types of boosts. The following list is based on Hertwig & Grüne-Yanoff (2017, p. 979):
Risk literacy boosts
Risk literacy boosts establish or foster the competence to understand statistical information in domains such as health, weather, and finances. This competence can be achieved through
- graphical representations,
- experienced-based (as opposed to purely description-based) representations (e.g., communicating the risks of opioid use),
- representations that avoid biasing framing effects,
- brief training in transforming opaque representations into transparent ones (e.g., teaching people how to construct natural frequency trees out of probability information to foster Bayesian inferences), and
- training math skills in general (e.g., during story time with parents).
Boosts targeting risk literacy work as long as people have access to actuarial information about risks. Often, however, people need to make decisions under uncertainty, with no explicit risk information available. In this case, they need other mental tools to deal with uncertainty (see next section).
Uncertainty management boosts
Uncertainty management boosts establish or foster procedural rules for making good decisions, predictions, and assessments under uncertain conditions with the help of
- simple actuarial inferential methods,
- simple rules of collective intelligence, and
- fast and frugal decision trees, simple heuristics, and procedural routines (e.g., to judge the reliability of information online).
Motivational boosts foster the competence to autonomously adjust one’s motivation, cognitive control, and self-control through interventions such as
- expressive writing,
- growth-mindset or sense-of-purpose exercises,
- attention and attention state training,
- psychological connectedness training,
- reward-bundling exercises,
- the strategic use of automatic processes (i.e., harnessing simple implementation intentions),
- training in precommitment and self-control strategies, and
Boosts can also be classified by target audience. Some boosts target specific developmental periods (e.g., childhood); others are applicable across the adult life span (e.g., risk literacy boosts). Some boosts target the population at large; others target subsets of the population, such as smokers, general practitioners, or diagnosticians.