Research by cognitive psychologists has led to the identification of systematic deviations from rationality – termed heuristics and biases – in people's judgment and decision making. These heuristics and biases form the core of behavioral decision theory, a descriptively accurate model of human judgment and choice. This article describes key heuristics and biases and discusses their effects on policy outcomes in the area of risk regulation. Heuristics and biases can affect both the demand for risk regulation by the public, and also the manner in which political actors and institutions choose to manage risk. Analyzing regulatory policy through the interpretive framework of heuristics and biases can help to explain regulatory outcomes considered by rational choice analyses of the public policy process as paradoxes and anomalies. The utility of this interpretive framework is explored through an examination of the origin, persistence, and repeal of the Delaney Clause – a key paradox in the context of risk regulation in the United States.
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