Policy Sciences

, Volume 52, Issue 1, pp 97–118 | Cite as

Connecting models of the individual and policy change processes: a research agenda

  • Heather MillarEmail author
  • Matthew Lesch
  • Linda A. White
Research Article


This article proposes that closer attention to models of the individual provides substantial theoretical and empirical leverage to policy studies scholars. Capturing the nuances of individual choice can assist policy researchers in adjudicating between specific theories of policy change. We provide an analytical matrix for parsing models of the individual underpinning various collective processes of policy change and demonstrate the value of our approach by applying it to the case of Canadian provincial renewable energy policy. The article demonstrates that gathering evidence regarding individual choice can support the presence or absence of processes functioning at the collective level. It concludes with a discussion of the implications of this approach for future policy research on the relative explanatory power of different causal processes, sequencing of policy change, and the identification of new mechanisms of policy change.


Policy process theories Model of the individual Bounded rationality Policy change Energy policy 



A previous version of this article was presented at the Canadian Political Science Association (CPSA) conference, Ottawa, 2–4 June 2015. The authors thank conference participants who offered constructive criticisms, in particular, Daniel Béland, Lior Sheffer, Grace Skogstad, and Jennifer Wallner. The authors are also grateful to the Policy Sciences anonymous reviewers for their very helpful comments.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Political ScienceUniversity of TorontoTorontoCanada

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