Think You Know Your Behaviour? Think Again.

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We all know that regular physical exercise and health screening can help us stay healthy and prevent or manage diabetes. But how many of us actually stick to these behaviours? If not, how do we change our behaviour, or that of others?

Recently at the War on Diabetes Designathon workshop, we were joined by Samuel Hanes from The Behavioural Insights Team, who talked to us about what drives behaviour change, and how these insights can be leveraged to help people adopt healthier behaviours.

Here’s a quick summary of the insights:

Two Models of Decision-making

We make different decisions differently. Broadly, there are two “systems” of decision-making, as pointed out by Nobel Laureate Daniel Kahneman throughout his research, and in his book Thinking Fast & Slow:

System 1 contains all the parts of the brain that control what we do when we do automatic, routine things. These are quick decisions. If someone asks you what 2x2 is, you immediately say 4, without having to do any math in your head. This system is applicable to a lot more things, like brushing your teeth or commuting to work. In fact, System 1 is responsible for a larger proportion of our behaviour, than we think.

System 2 involves slow and deliberate thinking. We’d have to think a lot harder if someone asked us to multiply 24 by 17. There are no automatic answers here. A lot of the time when we want people to change their behaviour, we try to influence their System 2 thinking.

Kahneman, however, states that we can use environmental effects to strongly influence people’s System 1 thinking.

Additionally, Samuel raised three essential points to keep in mind about human behaviour:

- How well do we know our behaviour? How do we over- or underestimate our behaviour, given a certain context?

- How do contextual cues change our normal behaviour? For example, how do our purchase behaviours change when a menu or supermarket placement changes?

- How can people’s good intentions be leveraged to overcome these cues and make a difference? How do people override their System 2 thinking with their System 1 decision, given a chance to change their mind?

To see Samuel’s full presentation, along with all the examples and case studies he mentioned, check out the video below!

Ganesan Soma