Key takeaways from our behavioural science road trip

18 June 2020

We went on a road trip to review some of the biggest and boldest applications of behavioural science over the last 10 years. The conversation was shared with the behavioural economics network in New Zealand, the Behavioural by Design Melbourne community and humans across the world interested in joining the discussion. Here are a few takeaways from the session:

1. How was behavioural science applied to reduce anti-social behaviour during the London riots in 2011 and mitigate some broken windows?

Broken Windows Theory suggests that when there are visible signs of petty crime, it fuels much bigger crime, anti-social behaviour and large scale disorder. A broken window is all it takes.

At the advertising agency Ogilvy, Tara Austin teamed up budding behavioural science practitioner Daniel Bennett, to use shop shutters for reducing anti-social behaviour following the riots. They hypothesised that cute baby faces, known to promote caring behaviour in adults, can have a positive impact. Shop shutters, which were a symbol of crime and social division, were spray painted with baby schema to signal the presence of a caring community.

Key takeaway. Big challenges don’t always require expensive solutions for changing human behaviour

2. Tell us about your challenge with Unilever in Thailand, to save time and water, by changing washing habits?

People living in many parts of the developing world don’t have access to the trusted washing machine. Washing clothes with the old school bucket wash-and-rinse method wastes an incredible amount of water. A new product, Comfort One Rinse by Unilever, reduces the need to repeatedly rinse laundry which can help homes use 66% less water for every wash. However, washing habits are hard to change when the method for washing clothes is passed on from generation to generation. Moreover, the packaging was similar to other detergents at the same shop so users continued using the same amount of water with this new product.

The idea from the team was to introduce a technical bucket with measuring lines, a tap and rippled slides to showcase peak effectiveness of the product. Sometimes, friction or making an action more effortful, can increase the perceived value of the behaviour.

Key takeaway. For changing established habits, introducing friction can increase efficacy of a new behaviour

3. Discuss the collaboration with Nestle to tackle obesity in Mexico. How did you think both big and small to apply behavioural science at scale?

The platform idea was to create a TV programme with many interventions to get real families to become more healthy. The interventions were piloted on the television show and successful 'nudges' were produced for retail distribution. One of the nudges the team came up with was the arm wrestling juicer. The juicer was made really massive and this was a deliberate decision in the design.

The brief to the designers and creative team was to make a juicer really big so that it never fits in the cupboard. This meant it always stayed on the kitchen counter and acted as a timely prompt to encourage people to eat healthy every time they step into their kitchen.

Key takeaway. A big platform idea with many small targeted behaviour change interventions can be used as a dual-approach to apply behavioural science at scale

Our guest speaker for this session was leading behavioural science pioneer, Jez Groom. You can check out his new book with April Vellacott - Ripple. In the book, you will find more examples of how small behaviour changes can have wide-reaching effects and create positive ripple effects on the world around you.

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