9 useful readings on behaviour change

The stream of new research and findings on behaviour change continues at a furious rate. From the use of behavioural economics to a greater understanding of social influence, it’s exciting to be a part of behaviour change efforts that seek to go deeper in understanding why we do the things we do.

Although just a small sample, I wanted to share some of my favourite articles, studies and case studies that showcase how these learnings are being applied to specific sectors and industries, including energy conservation, the local food movement and health.

1. This study was put together for the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, and includes insights on how learnings from behavioural economics can help reduce energy use.

2. Insights on understanding and predicting childhood obesity. A study commissioned by the Advertising Association’s Food Advertising Unit.

3. A great exchange between Rory Sutherland, Tim Duffy and Dr Richard Wright during a House of Lords Enquiry on Behaviour change.

4. A well put together report that includes practical, real world examples that demonstrates how potentially new thinking and tools for behaviour change can be put in the hands of communities, whether farmers’ markets, food co-ops and food enterprises etc.

5. From the Cabinet Office (UK) and the Institute for Government, this report includes some nice examples of behavioural theory in action.

6. From the Cabinet office again, more focused examples of effective behaviour change in the health category

7. This essay by Paul Ormerod (N-Squared, Public Policy and the Power of Networks) highlights that effective policy focused on behaviour change needs to not only draw from behavioural economics, but also from an understanding of how our social networks influence our choices.

My own experience in behaviour change has helped me understand that social forces that draw us toward or away from certain actions cannot be ignored in any behaviour change initiative. They help us see not only what we’re up against, but how we can use these powers to influence positive behaviour. For example, the use of social proof (social norms) in this  recent anti-smoking campaign.

8. In this interview, Rory Sutherland summarizes how Behavioural Economics can help reinvigorate the advertising business

9. This essay from Wired demonstrates why our perception of the “hot hand” in sport is likely a fallacy – with much of it to do with Confirmation Bias.