4.3 Challenges and research questions
From mission to behavioural change In order to bring about behavioural change to support transitions, it is essential to better determine which ingredients are necessary for public support for the missions. What is needed to motivate people to adopt interventions? Part of this can also be determining what the most important psychological factors are that encourage people to take social action / citizen engagement. Attention to the (in) visibility of the problems and the legitimacy of the status quo are important conditions for change.
Effectiveness of methods Although we have many theories, methods and tools, it appears time and again that behavioural change is not easy. See, for example, Ludden and Hermsen (2020) for an overview of types of interventions that have been used for lifestyle change and a discussion of why they are often not effective (enough). Besides the fact that behavioural change is a complex process, there is a lack of knowledge about when, which method / intervention works best and why, partly due to the wide variety of methods within this category. To investigate this, systematically conducted studies are needed to evaluate the effect of interventions on actual behaviour. It is also important to get a picture of the underlying process (mechanisms of action). We also still have relatively little knowledge of how behavioural change can be sustained in the longer term.
Ultimately, more knowledge about when which methods are effective could also lead to a situation in which we have standard solutions and tools for less complex situations surrounding behavioural change. A challenge here is to develop / refine KEMs that can be put to good use by many people in developing interventions and that have a solid scientific basis. Current KEMs are often still too complex and do not make the translation from theory to intervention clear (actionable) enough. More complex situations may require approaches and solutions led by specialists (behaviour change designers) who can work on these issues within a network of stakeholders.
Personalisation of behavioural change / interventions In behavioural change at the level of the individual, more and more use is made of the possibilities that personal data offer to personalise an intervention. Knowledge about when and whether personalisation of interventions is effective (leading to sustainable behavioural change) is still largely lacking. Also, little is known about effective ways of personalising, for example how to link this to personal characteristics. These questions are also relevant for interventions that do not focus purely on an individual but on social structures - for example couples and families / organisations. Also interesting is the development of adaptive interventions that personalise contextually (JITAI, Continuous Tuning Interventions).
Where in the system? In the introduction to this category, we discussed that interventions can be used at various points in a system (for the citizen vs for the care provider / teacher). An important challenge is that there is a lack of knowledge about where a change / intervention can best be implemented. How do we determine at what level a transition must be initiated to be effective and how do the behaviours of the various stakeholders interact? How do we prevent the behaviour of different groups from having an opposite effect? A second important question is how combinations of interventions that are deployed at different levels can be combined and what effects we can then expect. Can we combine interventions in the environment with interventions at the level of the individual and does that make the interventions more effective or transitions more likely? For example: my app also uses location-specific data and tells me at the station where I can find something healthy to eat. Knowledge and methods on how we can develop this type of combination interventions are lacking.
With regard to grassroots initiatives, we lack knowledge of how to grow changes that have been achieved locally. How do we shape the step from local initiatives to actual change in the system? Are local initiatives growing from regional to national to global? Where do we encounter barriers in this?
Moral questions about behavioural change The current KEMs offer little guidance with regard to the moral aspect of behavioural change. Certainly at a time when the role of big data in behavioural change interventions is also increasing, it is important to pay attention to this. Should data about behaviour be collected? If so, what data and for whom should that data be available? The Product Impact Tool can be a starting point for ethical reflection and is an example of a KEM that supports research into the impact of technology on people, society and the environment (see: www.productimpacttool.org and Dorresteijn et al., 2014). There is a need for further development of tools that enable designers to determine the possible impact of an intervention on people and society before large-scale implementation. From a philosophy point of view, Value Sensitive Design methods offer a good starting point. But here too a clear translation from theory to development of an intervention is lacking.
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