Behavioural Science uses a range of validated theories and techniques to explain the psychological processes that drive behaviours. The insight gained can then be used to provide specific, evidenced-based recommendations.
Our in-house Behavioural Science Team are experts across several branches of behavioural science including Behavioural Economics, Psychology, Anthropology, Sociology, and Language and Behaviour Profiling. The team is always on hand to support the design and analysis stages of research projects.
When is Behavioural Science useful?
We regularly use Behavioural Science to inform solutions for commercial challenges in the areas of behaviour change, NPD/propositions/pricing, and campaigns/communications research.
Here are some typical questions that we can you answer:
How do we understand deep resistance to changes that would result in personal or societal benefits?
How prepared are respondents to change or where are they in the behaviour change process?
What are the best ways to encourage positive behaviour change at different stages?
NPD, propositions and pricing
What ‘rules of thumb’ or heuristics dominate your category?
How can you make use of these heuristics to encourage the purchase of your product or service?
How do we calibrate research data based on the realities of behavioural science?
Campaigns and communications
What behavioural insights will be most effective at driving a desired behaviour?
Having identified the key heuristics, how can we design messages to maximise certain behaviours?
Which typical comms approaches like anchoring, framing, loss aversion, default or nudges will lead to best outcomes?
Behavioural Science techniques
The techniques we use fall into three main categories:
We identify which key heuristics are at play and then provide actionable solutions on how to counteract or boost them. This could be in anything from designing our materials to understanding or ‘nudging’ behaviour, be that in message testing, customer journeys or conjoint studies.
A variety of models is available and we'll work with you to decide which approach would suit your research best. For reference, we often gravitate toward the COM-B Model, the Transtheoretical Model (TTM) and the ISM Model.
Useful theories include Habit Loops, the Intention-Action Gap, Social Identity Theory and Nudge Theory, while procedures such as Language Analysis and naturalistic observation are ideal for message testing or shopper research as they can uncover the contextual drivers of behaviour, and identify which words are most effective at changing minds.
More about behaviour change models
The COM-B Behaviour Change Model suggests that Capability, Opportunity and Motivation all need to be present to change behaviour.
We use the COM-B model in projects that are focused on how to encourage or discourage an individual’s behaviour, such as how to quit smoking or increase environmentally-friendly behaviour.
Source: Michie et al (2011).
The TTM suggests that there are six stages of behaviour change:
It’s particularly useful in projects where we need to understand what stage consumers are currently at and how to move them onto the next stage.
Source: Prochaska and DiClemente (1983)
The ISM model suggests that the Individual, Social and Material contexts all influence behaviour and that any behaviour change interventions should target all these factors.
We use this model for policy level changes or macro level behaviour change, such as encouraging small to medium size businesses to adopt more sustainable behaviours.
Source: Darnton et al. (2013)
More about psychological approaches
Habit loops provide a framework for understanding what causes people to engage in certain behaviours. The process of a habit loop consists of three elements:
- A cue
- A routine
- A reward.
Understanding these elements can help in understanding how to change bad habits or form better ones
In simple terms, the Intention-Action Gap is the difference between what people say they would like to or plan to do and what they actually do. For example, people often say they want to do more for the environment but don’t actually do anything further; or people make a New Year’s resolution to exercise more but don’t follow through with their intention.
Nudge theory says that the choices available to us influence the decisions we make, and therefore our behaviour. Nudges are indirect suggestions through deliberately designed choices which encourage positive helpful decisions, both for the people choosing and ideally for the wider interests of society too.
One of the most famous examples of nudge theory in practice was increasing the number of people in the UK with active pension schemes by introducing automatic enrolment so that workers avoided having to make the complicated decisions which had been putting them off. Since this scheme was introduced in 2012, active membership of private sector pension schemes jumped from 2.7 million to 7.7 million in 2016.
A Language and Behaviour (LAB) Profile is a powerful tool for understanding and influencing the behaviour of others. It was created by Roger Bailey and originates from the Meta-programmes of NLP (Neurolinguistic Programming).
By studying a person’s language patterns the profiler can identify how people trigger and maintain their interest level, how people deal with information and how they become convinced about something. These insights can show you what language would ‘click’ with them and motivate the behaviour you desire
Naturalistic observation is a technique with roots in anthropology. It involves observing the spontaneous behaviour of participants in their normal surroundings. The researcher simply records what they see in whatever way they can and this contributes greatly to understandings of how the participants environment shapes their behaviour. This is particularly helpful in shopper research, or medication adherence research.