If you’ve ever made – and then broken – a new year’s resolution, you’ll know how difficult it can be to change behaviour. Behavioural patterns are largely determined by social circumstances and cultural contexts. They make it difficult for us to change our own behaviour, and even harder to change some else’s.
The disconnect between what people think, feel and ultimately do is something that governments and not-for-profit organisations have been challenged by for decades. People don’t always behave in their own self-interest, and often citizens make choices that may seem irrational. Smoking, drink-driving, and polluting are behaviours that are unlikely to maximise long-term wellbeing, yet millions of us around the world do just this every day.
Many of the most important public policy challenges that governments face can only be addressed by sustained, populationan-level behaviour change. But the drivers and influencers of behaviour are complex. Cost-benefit calculations, morality, values, social norms, habits and context can all affect behaviour. So, changing citizen behaviour calls for a nuanced approach that addresses both the conscious and subconscious drivers of behaviour.