4.2 State of the art: perspectives on behavioural change
KEMs in this category are based on models and theories from different disciplines (including social, cognitive and environmental psychology, organisational psychology, communication sciences and sociology). We can place theories from the different disciplines on a continuum that extends from the individual to the broader context (individual - social structure - environment, see also Niedderer et al., 2017). While theories from cognitive psychology are often aimed at a better understanding of the individual and how the individual's actions are determined, theories from sociology and organisational psychology are more aimed at a better understanding of broad social structures and how these influence our daily lives and actions. At the other end of the continuum, we find the theories from environmental psychology in which a better understanding of how the environment influences our behaviour is central. In the diversity of KEMs in this category, we see the philosophies of the different disciplines reflected. On an individual level we can influence behaviour by supporting people in prioritising the desired behaviour. The pedometer is an example that we all know. It makes us (individually) aware of how much we move.
An example at the level of social structures is social proof. For example, think of how web shops almost constantly point out what your peers think of the product you are viewing or what else they have bought. An example at the last level, more environmentally-oriented behavioural change, is choice architecture, which is based on a default in the environment that prescribes the desired behaviour. The printer that defaults to double-sided and black and white printing (and thus promotes more sustainable behaviour) is often mentioned. But a city that is designed for pedestrians and not for motorised traffic is also an example of a design that follows this strategy. Further analysis of KEMs aimed at behavioural change shows that they are by no means always limited to one of the levels of influence. They can, to some extent, combine several levels. Not least because the design of products, services and systems - as a contextual factor - mediates the interaction between people and their environment.
Examples of methods Behavioural change, theories and tools In a recent review, Kwasnicka and colleagues looked at what, according to 100 different theories, contributes to lasting behavioural change (Kwasnica et al., 2016). They then group their results into 5 categories: 1) change in the environment, 2) interventions on motivation, 3) support for self-regulation, 4) support for psychosocial resources (resilience, optimism), and 5) habit formation. We give a number of examples within these categories here.
As an example in the first category, we can look at the theory of nudging, originating from the discipline "behavioural economics", which combines theories from psychology and economics (Thaler & Sunstein, 2008). An example is how the design of our environment can influence our willingness to recycle. A waste container design can make recycling very clear and easy or provide information about how many other people in the area choose to recycle. See also Varotto & Spagnolli (2017) who discuss the effectiveness of different strategies in a meta-review.
If we look at examples in the second category, interventions on motivation, we see, for example, strategies that support behavioural change in a more conscious way and are, for example, based on the self-determination theory (Ryan et al., 2006) and rewarding ( van Dooren et al., 2019). Support in self-regulation (category 3) can, for example, happen through providing feedback (Casal et al., 2017) on behaviour and goal setting (Strecher et al., 1995). Examples of strategies in the fourth category, resilience support, are pats on the back and emotional support from the environment. A number of strategies in this category have been implemented in the Stopadvisor intervention (see Brown et al., 2014). In the last category, habit formation, focusing on how one's own identity is seen is a strategy (see e.g. Hoie et al., 2010).
Selection of theory / tool It is important to select within the many theories and KEMs based on them, so that the desired transition that must start with a behavioural change is consciously chosen. It is essential to consider the desired mechanism of change: how persuasive (strong) must / can / may the influence be and what level of influence is desired (see also Tromp et al., 2011). A number of KEMs offer guidance when selecting from a wide variety of theories and tools. A nice overview that shows the relationships between Behaviour Change Techniques (BCTs, behaviour change strategies) and Mechanisms of action (MoAs) is the Theory & Techniques Tool developed within The Human Behaviour Change Project (2020). Mechanisms of Action are the processes that take place within a person that initiate behavioural change. Behaviour Change Techniques are the strategies to initiate these mechanisms of action in humans (from the outside).
The Behaviour Change Wheel (Michie et al., 2014) is another example of a tool that brings together multiple behavioural change theories and allows you to discover fruitful strategies for developing interventions and policies for behavioural change by playing with the dimensions of the wheel. The BCW model is used to determine which behavioural intervention offers the best solution for a particular problem. The model analyses the motives for a certain behaviour by looking at Capacity , the Opportunity, and the Motivation. Based on this, it can be determined which intervention function(s) and behavioural techniques are necessary to influence the behaviour. The BCW model is used both to analyse the behavioural issue (explore and orientate) and to systematically choose a strategy and develop a behavioural intervention based on this. Lockton's Design with intent cards (Lockton et al., 2010) provide a wonderful and broad overview of the different ways of influence and how these can be expressed in design.
Citizen empowerment and engagement KEMs focused on citizen empowerment and engagement form a distinct approach within this category that shifts the focus from the individual who is (or must be) influenced to exhibit / adopt a particular desired behaviour to the individual (or, usually: a collective of individuals) that wants to bring about change together by acting collectively in a new way. In short, a more bottom-up approach to transition and change processes. Smith et al. (2016) describe, for example, how grassroots initiatives can be developed and what role local governments and other stakeholders can play in facilitating these types of initiatives so that citizens find the right circumstances to initiate changes they consider important. Methods such as Group Model Building, in which a group of diverse stakeholders together build a model of the problem, gain insight into the various processes and feedback loops, and derive policy directions are promising here. Participatory system dynamics is a method in which people reflect together, learn about the complexity of a problem and possible solutions (see also Chapter 3).
Empowerment and engagement are concepts that have long been used in various fields of application. For example, we can speak of engagement with one's own health or care, but also of engagement with sustainability and measures that promote sustainable behaviour. There are also concrete examples in these different domains. There are neighborhood initiatives in which people collectively and locally generate and share their energy or, for example, collect solar panels. There are also initiatives in which people buy a piece of land together, hire someone to grow food on that land and thus work together towards a change they want, and to a more sustainable model for the production and consumption of food.
Possibilities / limitations of the different methods / directions The way in which a behavioural change is brought about and the choice in the way in which behaviour is influenced in a certain context is complex and requires the necessary caution. A top-down approach where people feel compelled to make a particular choice can backfire. There is an important difference in the level of influence that is chosen. Interventions at the individual level are often only embraced by those who see the full benefit and necessity of change and also have the right skills and mental space to initiate a change (think of using an activity tracker / pedometer that can motivate you to exercise more). However, this is by no means always the group that most needs a change (Ludden, 2017). For example when it comes to lifestyle changes. There is a large group of people who do not yet think of themselves that a change is necessary and / or find it difficult to initiate a change, but who are at great risk of developing lifestyle-related disorders. It is precisely for this group that interventions placed in the social context could bring about a transition (think of, for example, a sugar tax that is already being used successfully in various countries). However, we can question the desirability of such ‘invisible’ behavioural change strategies: should ‘we’ (designers, policymakers) determine what the desirable behaviour is in a particular situation? And, given that design always influences, how do we make moral choices in how we influence? The solution to such issues is increasingly sought in the connection with the category of participation and co-creation (see Chapter 3). If those involved can participate in determining the desired behavioural change, on the basis of available knowledge and, for example, in conversation with experts, and then can think along about how to bring about this change, there may be more willingness and also the possibility to adopt interventions.