Automatic behaviour change

Interesting report from the Institute for Govenment, pulling together some of the evidence for ‘automatic’ behaviour change techniques. Many behaviour change initiatives to date have involved a ‘reflective’ approach (the standard model used by economics), which assumes that people make decisions rationally and will analyse the various pieces of information from politicians, governments and markets, and then act in ways that reflect their best interests.

Evidence (and common sense) however suggests that this is not the whole story, and in fact people are sometimes seemingly irrational and inconsistent in their choices, often because they are influenced by surrounding factors. This alternative model of behaviour change therefore focuses on “changing behaviour without changing minds‟ – for example, trying to shift the context in which people act, in order to ‘nudge’ them into behaviour change. This theme has been the topic of several bestselling books in recent years (from ‘Nudge’ to ‘Blink’) and it seems that an effective and balanced behaviour change strategy should incorporate learning and tactics from both the ‘rational’ and ‘automatic’ sides of our behaviour.

This is useful stuff for people interested in changing behaviour – whether as politicians or campaigning groups.

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