Behavioural Science 101

Behavioural science is the study of human behaviour. Behavioural science helps to restructure the decision-making environment, by framing information to remove psychological barriers that usually make it hard for people to change their habits or adopt new ones.

These psychological barriers influence our choices as consumers. Common psychological barriers include:

  • loss aversion (universally, people have a strong tendency to value the potential pain of losing more highly than the potential pleasure of gaining; people are more willing to take risks to avoid losing something, than to take risks to try to gain something);

  • cognitive dissonance (for example, mental stress experienced when a person performs an action that contradicts their beliefs, ideas, subjective identity and values);

  • a lack of clear and specific information (which creates decision-making friction);

  • countervailing social norms; and

  • a preference for the path of least resistance (that is, people will opt for choices that have the smallest amount of decision-making friction. Friction is anything that requires mental or physical effort, like having to read several paragraphs, or fill out a form, or click through multiple web-pages).

The behavioural science underpinning the Transition Streets Canberra workbook

The Transition Streets Canberra digital workbook, and the activities inside it, have been designed to make it easier to change your behaviours and consumption habits and measure your results. 

If you’re interested in the methodology behind the Transition Streets workbook, you can read about it here.

Each chapter of the workbook utilises principles from behavioural economics and psychological research on behaviour change, including:

  • social normative messages (e.g. 8 out of 10 people on your street have a compost bin);

  • framing long-term benefits and costs in ways that appear more immediate;

  • removing decision-making friction by providing specific information on suggested actions (e.g. instead of just suggesting ‘why not do your groceries at fresh food markets’; a table of all the fresh food markets in Canberra is also included, with addresses, relative costs and opening times, is included);

  • implementation intentions and commitments (setting out our commitments in writing, and planning out when, where and how we will carry out a particular action, both increase the likelihood that we'll actually do what we say we'll do); and

  • positive reinforcement, positive framing and psychological rewards; and

  • routine-building via support from friends and peers who are practicing the desired behaviour change.

  • Each chapter also includes ‘behaviour change tips’ which provide information about typical cognitive barriers encountered when trying to start a new habit or break an existing one.

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  • Lily Dempster
    published this page in Blog 2017-05-28 15:54:51 +1000