Eating behaviour change

With my Club Soda hat on, I attended some panel discussions at a Food Matters Live event last week. My first session was titled “Behaviour change: societal or personal accountability?”. There was a lot of talk about nudges, especially from a government policy point of view (possibly due to the backgrounds of the panel members). An interesting nugget mentioned by Michael Hallsworth from the Behavioural Insights Team was that bad examples spread better in human networks than good examples, since they give people a kind of social permission to misbehave if their friends and neighbours do so as well. At Club Soda we are not quite that pessimistic, believing rather that a social element is very important in changing human behaviours for the better.

The second session, “Health and wellbeing: the trillion dollar marketplace”, had some useful things to say about marketing, and behaviour change too. Adam Ismail from GOED said you should have just one big idea in your marketing, as including too much detail won’t be taken in or trusted. Someone added that you should not give too much detail to consumers, but rather just appeal to authority (“this product has been evaluated by doctors”). And Adam noted that every seafood initiative around the world has led to people eating less fish, which chimes with what we know about alcohol awareness: people in pubs with posters about the dangers of alcohol actually drink more, not less! In a similar way, rewards (e.g. insurance discounts) seem to work better than penalties (such as taxes).

On my way out, I chatted with the people at the Vegan Society stall. Their mission, or at least a part of it, is of course a type of behaviour change intervention as well: how to make people use less animal products? Not an easy one either.

As an aside, there were hardly any empty seats for the first session, whereas in the second one the venue was only about one third full. Is a bit of behavioural nudging really that much more exciting than a trillion dollars?

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