Blog: The nature experience: behaviour change, conservation and technology

By Tanya Smith

Changing behaviours is a goal that many organisations have, especially those in the health and environmental sectors.

The talented panel at the Improving Health and Well-being stream event at the IUCN World Parks Congress 2014 discussed many aspects of changing behaviour and the methods and technologies that can assist.

Some of the key points from the panel included:

  • Behaviour is influenced by motivation, ability and triggers.
  • To encourage people to engage in certain behaviours you either need to increase their motivation to do so, or make it easier for them to behave in the way you want them to. If possible, it is preferable to make things easier to do as you will have greater success with this. Or alternatively you can make the non- desired behaviour harder to do.
  • Education is a component of creating behaviour change but it often isn't successful alone. For example, telling people why smoking is bad for them doesn't make much difference to their behaviour. However, putting cigarette prices up does change behaviour. If you are using education to change behaviour then it is important to focus on the solution rather than the problem.
  • No behaviour happens without a trigger. It is important to put appropriate triggers in the path of motivated people.
  • It is important to design for behaviours, not for goals. For example, don't design a campaign or strategy to save water. Design it to encourage people to engage in specific behaviours such as limit showers to four minutes long or use a trigger hose.

The panel examined several types of wearable technologies that can be used to monitor responses to certain situations, giving an insight into how best to take action to change behaviour.

Just a few of the common mistakes people make when trying to change behaviour include:

  • Trying to create brand new behaviours rather than modify existing ones.
  • Thinking that information alone can inspire change
  • Not telling a compelling story

Speakers in this session included...

  • Julie Townsend, Consultant, USA
    Julia Africa, Harvard School of Public Health, USA
  • Jason McDermott, Sensorium Health, Australia
  • Eileen McNeely, Harvard School of Public Health, USA
    TsungXu, Vital Behaviour Consulting, Australia