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Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Behaviour change: actually, “it is rocket science”

Behaviour Workshops attended the launch event of the UCL Centre for Behaviour Change on Monday 17th February in London.  We will be posting more about the launch later, but in the meantime, here are some comments from one of the speakers, Professor Mike Kelly, Director of the Public Health Centre at NICE, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence.

Mike described the six common mistakes people make about behaviour change - we thought we’d share them with you:

1. "Behaviour Change is common sense.” It’s not – it is a science, it’s a discipline.

2. “It is about getting the message across.” On the whole, messages don’t work in isolation

3. “Knowledge drives behaviour in some directly connected way.” It doesn’t.

4. “People are rational.” They aren’t. Given the right information and circumstances sometimes some people act rationally – but sometimes they don’t.

5. "People are irrational.” Not always. (see 4)

6. “We can predict human errors and account for them.” We might be able to predict some things, but we can’t predict everything. And we should stop pretending we can.

Which is why, according to Mike, “behaviour change actually IS rocket science.”  But non-rocket scientists should not despair. As Mike said, whilst behaviour change is complex, we can learn a lot from many disciplines.

Mike responded to a question about consumer marketing as being a great example of how to drive behaviour change. And, invoking the spirit of behavioural economics, concluded “You should ignore Nudge at your peril”.  We couldn’t agree more - see details of our latest workshop - Is A Nudge Enough? 

NICE’s latest public health guidance “Behaviour change: individual approaches,” published in January 2014.


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