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What We Know About Changing Behaviour

What We Know About Changing Behaviour

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Categories:Types, Research
Published by: Professor Jeff French on Apr 29, 2011
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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What we know abou
tDesigning Behaviour Change Programmesand Interventions
Professor Jeff FrenchPhD, MBA, MSc, Dip HE, BA, Cert.EdStrategic Social Marketing Ltd
 jeff.French@strategic-social –marketing.org
What we know about behaviour change 25 lessons from theevidence:Putting theory into practice
Recent findings from a variety of fields of study have all he
lped toexpand and enhance our understanding of how and why peoplebehave as they do.This learning gives us a powerful set of principles, which can beused to help design more effective social change interventions. Inparticular, there is a much wider appreciation now that whilebehaviour can be rationale’ and the result of consciousconsideration, in practice many decisions flow from emotionalengagement, social influence and environmental prompts.What we now know is that many of our choices and the decisionswe make that influence our behaviour are not the result of activedecision-making but can often also be unconscious and automaticin nature. These ‘decisionsare influenced by our social andemotional contexts and by factors such as timing, and ouphysiological state.The following set of 25 principles summarises much of what wecurrently know about influencing behaviour drawn from fields of study that include but are not limited to management, psychology,policy development, economics, design, sociology, biology andcommunication studies
Change in behaviour is usually a process not an event
, and often entailsseveral attempts before success. When delivering intervention programmesthere is a need to be persistent, sustain interventions over time and offer multiple paths to success.
A desire or at least an acceptance for change must be present
in thetarget audience: Some people will want to change their behaviour; others willneed to be persuaded to consider a change.
People need to feel involved and engaged
. Participatory involvement oftencreates bigger behavioural change effects. Wherever possible, involve,consult and engage people in both designing and delivering interventions.
Active consideration often leads to more permanent chang
If peoplehave a chance to explore and consider issues, this soften helps them bothreconsider attitudes and beliefs that help them change their behaviour or maintain a positive behaviour.
People can be taught critical thinking skills that can help them takemore control over their behaviour 
and resist media, social andenvironmental influences on their behaviour.
People are often motivated to do the ‘right thing’
for the community aswell as themselves and their families. Interventions that appeal to peoplessense of community togetherness and that the desired behaviour is a norm inthe community and one that is valued by others tend to be more successful.
Social relationships, approval and social support have a strong andpersistent influence
on behaviour. Working with and through key influencersimproves the impact of behaviour change programmes. Use the power of group norms and behaviour to inform and engage people in change, let themknow that others are changing and use the power of group action.
People can be ‘locked into’ patterns of behaviour 
and need practical helpto help them break or unfreeze current behaviour. Programmes that providepractical support to change are easy to access and require small steps tendto be more effective.
Beliefs and values influence how people behave
. Programmes shouldstart by understanding target audience beliefs and attitudes and use these toinform the development of behaviour change services and products.
Behavioural experience can influence beliefs and values
. Programmesthat move people to behaviour as quickly as possible i.e. give them a chanceto try the thing that is being promoted work best. It is not always necessary torely on shifting attitude first. Often behaving differently often leads to a shift inattitude.
Change is more likely if an undesired behaviour is not part of anindividual’s coping strategy
. Avoid ‘telling people off’ for ‘bad’ behaviour if they are using it to cope with life. Demonstrates an understanding of thereasons for their behaviour and offer realistic and attractive alternatives thatgive practical support to change.

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