Behaviour change report welcomed

The Society has welcomed the publication of a new report from the House of Lords science and technology select committee.

Behaviour Change, the result of a year-long investigation into the way government tries to influence people’s behaviour, finds that “nudging” used in isolation will often be ineffective. Instead, it argues, a whole range of measures, including some regulatory measures, will be needed to change behaviour in a way that makes a difference to major social problems.

In a letter to the committee’s chair Baroness Neuberger, Dr Alison Wearden, chair of the British Psychological Society’s Division of Health Psychology, and Dr Carole Allan, chair of its Professional Practice Board, say:

“As a learned society, we endorse the emphasis that the report places on evidence-based policymaking, and its recognition of the need for behavioural scientists and others to work in partnership with government to ensure that accurate and up-to-date evidence informs policy.”

The letter expresses pleasure that the evidence given by Society members is reflected in the report and offers to assist the committee with any future examinations of behaviour change.

While the writers welcome the report’s recognition that a range of approaches will be need to achieve behaviour change, they say that it could have looked more closely at how best to monitor and regulate industry’s use of advertising, marketing and sponsorship to influence behaviour.

The letter also supports the committee’s recommendations that an independent Chief Social Scientist should be appointed and that the links between policymakers and leading behavioural scientists should be strengthened.

Other aspects of the report welcomed by the Society include its call for greater transparency about the evidence base for policy decisions and about the evaluation of the effectiveness of voluntary agreement with business.

Read more about the Behaviour Change report on the select committee’s website.