Understanding the Role of Values


This week I attended a fantastic summit organised by the 2050 Scottish Youth Climate Group. One of the workshops I attended was focused on behaviour change models. During the workshop we only had time to concentrate on one of the models – DEFRA’s 4Es. However, I have since done a little reading around some of the other models mentioned by the presenter. One in particular has really caught my attention. It is the Common Cause model which you can read more about at: http://valuesandframes.org/handbook/1-why-values-matter/ 

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As I mentioned in my last post, one core issue in getting people to maintain healthy behaviours arises from the fact that our biases mean it can be difficult for us to commit to undertake the activities we plan to do. With this in mind, I went to find out more about StickK. Its a great website, created by Yale Uni economists and built on real economics. The concept is that you log in to the website and enter your personal goal or ‘commitment contract’. You can then ‘set the stakes’ whereby you nominate someone to receive a financial amount (i.e. your cash) if you don’t meet your goal.

According to the site, they’ve had 265,200 commitments created and $19,037,674 put on the line. I think it would work for me. What about you?

Health Behaviours


I had the opportunity to attend a great lecture last night as part of Edinburgh University’s ‘Our Changing World’ lecture series. It was right up my street, looking at Health Economics and Health Behaviours. The presenter, Prof. Michele Belot, did a great job at explaining why we find it difficult to adopt behaviours which are good for us – particularly health behaviours such as taking exercise, eating well and limiting alcohol intake. We learnt why we might want to do these things, but then find it difficult to stick to our plans. Continue reading

The effects of commuter benefits


I read this article with much interest yesterday. It examines the results of a study by Virginia Tech transport scholars Andrea Hamre and Ralph Buehler who were investigating the effects of commuter benefits – free parking, free bus/transit pass etc. It took me a moment to understand the graphs which you can see on the CityLab article, but in summary they show:

  • if you give a group of employees just free parking, they will drive alone more often (as you would expect)
  • if you give a group of people just free transit, they will take transit more often (again, as you would expect)
  • however, if you give employees free transit and free parking, transit use is actually lower than if there were no benefits given.

So, free parking and free transit do not counter-balance one another. The article rightly points out the problems this causes for cities who are attempting to promote increase use of alternative modes. It also highlights the complexity of incentives and our human responses to them.

Make someone smile


I’ve just read a great article on Scientific American about how giving to others can make you happier. I personally do not volunteer much, but I certain know the pleasure I get from making and giving gifts. However, this research has gone a step further to find that having a concrete goal when you are giving will lead to you feeling happier.  So, for example, saying you want to make someone smile (concrete and observable) will make you happier than if you wanted to cheer someone up (abstract). The authors explain why this is the case:

We discovered that framing a goal in concrete terms makes a giver more realistic about their prospects of success. When expectations are too high, it can lead to disappointment and less happiness. But when you frame a goal concretely, you become more focused on how to achieve that goal and can better anticipate the obstacles and opportunities you might encounter along the way.

Reducing problem gambling


I just came across this article on tackling problem gambling in a newsletter I receive from the Canada Foundation for Innovation. Researchers have been trying to encourage responsible gambling – i.e. an individual setting limits on how much money they will gamble in one session and adhering to it.  They’ve found that giving the gamblers simple information to debunk false beliefs about the likelihood of winning, can have positive impacts.

“We explain why persistence at a slot machine does not pay off,” says Wohl. “The odds are, you will lose your money.”

While providing this information in the format of an animated video does appear to influence gambling behaviours, it is reported that its impact wanes after 30 days.  I’m interested to see how they might extend this influence for longer-term positive effects.