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Government and behaviour change 2: What examples are there of turning behavioural insight into practice?19th January 2011 by John Drummond
Can individual interventions change behaviours?
Theory only works in practice. So what examples are there of how new behavioural insight can be used to improve lives?
The new publication from the Cabinet Office on “applying behavioural insight to health” features a bunch of examples.
They break down into:
Interventions that head off the risk of future unwanted behaviours
To reduce the incidents of unwanted teenage pregnancy, take a teen and introduce them to toddlers at nurseries across the UK. That’s the recipe adopted by charity Teens and Todders in 26 local authority areas. By experiencing the demands of parenthood first hand, you re-set the risk of unwanted pregnancy.
Interventions at point of relevance
Prompted choice: by prompting applicants for driving licences to choose to register as an organ donor or not, the state of Illinois has increased registration since 2008 from 38% to 60%. The new national food hygiene scheme launched last November by the Food Standards Agency encourages restaurants to display their food hygiene rating influencing consumer choice and the hygiene of restaurants.
Changing social norms: Another planned project involving Drinkaware aims to raise awareness of students at Welsh universities to actual drinking habits to reduce the potential negative impact of social proof or the behaviour of others. In other words, it’s possible as students realize the actual drinking habits of the majority of students they may re-set their views of the social norm around students and drinking. Asda and the Department of Health trialed using social norm messaging on shopping trollies.
Changing product design or presentation: A pilot in Mexico of a shopping trolley with a yellow tape and a sign defining an area of the trolley for fruit and vegetables, increased the purchase of fruit and vegetables without effecting retail profit. In Iceland, fruit and vegetables were re-christened “sports candy” in the popular childrens TV show LazyTown. Now the Department of Health plan a partnership with LazyTown in the UK.
A collaboration between Bayer Healthcare and Nintendo DS has led to the development of a Didget device which gives points to diabetic children in return for them consistently consenting to regular pin-prick blood-sugar tests. These points can be used on Nintendo games or in the Didget web community, where children can compare their performance against others.
Making it fun to act: A Nike GPS phone application turns running into a game and a competition. Volkswagen invited ideas for making pro-environmental action fun. This led to piano stairs at a Stockholm subway that increased use of stairs over the escalator by 66% (www.thefuntheory.com). Swipe cards on lamp-posts encourage kids to walk to school and earn points at two schools in London.
Interventions that incentivise population-wide behaviours
Creating new units of value: In Japan, the Fureai Kippu is a unit of one-hour voluntarily invested in the social care of elderly people like helping with shopping or food preparation. Now one of the four Big Society vanguard councils is pioneering a CareBank scheme that builds on this idea with the possibility of a national roll out to follow.
They’re all good examples and it will take time before this kind of thinking becomes business as usual for practitioners. It’s all to be welcomed. But one-off interventions won’t always be the answer to achieving sustained behaviour change.