Jeff French writes….. How we behave – is it more “Doh” than “Do”?

I am grateful for the opportunity to write a regular Guest Blog for TCC. Over the coming weeks and months, I want to have a look at some of the drivers that make us behave the way we do and how this insight might help those working on the subject in the public policy arena.

This is important as behaviour change is rising up the policy agenda. In the last two years Government departments, including Cabinet Office, COI, DEFRA and the DH have issued a lot of guidance. Why might it be that this has become increasingly important to understand?

Much public policy has operated on the basis we are all logical people, who by and large make sensible decisions. Is this a correct assumption?

I would have to say no. But this is something that policy-makers are also recognising that they have to respond to.

Increasingly the evidence shows, how in order to make sense of the world, we use vast numbers of short-cuts and are seldom fully ‘logical’ in a scientific sense of that word.

We know that in many cases people make poor decisions to behave in ways that they would not if they:

  • Paid full attention
  • Possessed full information
  • Used unlimited cognitive ability
  • Had complete self-control

We also know that the chances of achieving the opposite of this at any stage are quite slim.

In other words the assumption in the past has been one of defining a mythical being called Homo Economicus, who acts completely rationally, when the reality is much more Homer Simpsonicus!

Over the coming weeks I will explore a whole series of these short-cuts. In the meantime I will leave you with an initial example, which I think you will surprisingly enjoy reading when you take more than a cursory glance:

Acnocridg to rsceearch at anh English uisnervtiy it deosn’t mttaer in waht odrer the ltteer in a wrod are, the olny iprmoetnt thnig is taht the fisrt and lsat ltteers are in the rghit pclae. The rset can be a toatl mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit a porbelm. Tihs is becuseae we do not raed ervey lteter by ieltsf but the wrod as a wlohe.

Professor Jeff French is a non-executive Director of The Campaign Company, a professor at Brunel University and a Fellow at Kings College University of London. He founded and established the National Social Marketing Centre in England and currently is chief executive of Strategic Social Marketing Ltd. He will be a keynote speaker at the 2nd World Social Marketing Conference in 2011 in Dublin

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