01 June 2009

Influencing behaviour change

BBC news reports a UK study to examine the influence of social norms on people's behaviour e.g. the amount of exercise they take, their energy consumption at home. The project aims to monitor the habits of people who don't exercise much or who consume high amounts of energy through a range of technologies and then feed back to participants their own behaviour and that of other people, with the aim of 'nudging' them to behavioural change. The premise here is that there are areas of our lives where we can't judge whether what we're doing is 'normal' but that awareness will change behaviour. (A converse of minority influence (thank you, Simon Lewis)).

Elsewhere less subtle approaches to behaviour change appear to be successful. NHS in Kent is trialling an incentive scheme where participants receive a payment when they lose weight (with additional incentives for maintaining the loss). Looking at the home page for the scheme, the trial is fully subscribed. More stick than carrot, stikK enables you to create a public contract to change your behaviour (e.g. stop smoking, lose weight) with a penalty payable to someone of your choice if you fail. Choosing someone you'd prefer not to receive your penalty incentivises you to stick to your plan.

Of course all of these programmes involve motivated participants. The information, penalties and incentives are icing on the cake (maybe a better metaphor needed) of basic determination.

No comments:

Post a Comment