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Changing long-term behavior

Emmanuel Rivière - Chief Executive Officer Kantar Public

Guillaume Caline - Consultant Kantar Public

Emmanuel.Riviere@kantarpublic.com

Guillaume.Caline@kantarpublic.com

Carpooling, eating five fruits and vegetables a day, reducing energy consumption … inciting people to change their behavior is a fundamental issue for many public and private organizations.

But there is a danger here of focusing exclusively on the rationality of individuals to encourage change behavior, given that none of us is ever completely rational. Good public policy takes into account not just the rational, but also people’s sense of identity and their emotions.

« Nudge » theory famously tells us that there are ways to quickly encourage change in people’s behavior that draw on people’s supposed rationality. This has been shown to encourage greater honesty in filling out tax returns, and to get people to drive more slowly or take the stairs instead of the elevator – at least for a while.

However, the challenge facing many clients is that of effecting long-lasting behavior change. Often, if the “nudge” is removed, bad habits come back very quickly! Efficient public policies should not rely exclusively on it and on the environment design.

The result should be a public discourse that creates the desire, not just the reflex, to adhere to the new behavior. We envisage it in four ways:

• Taking public action, through legislation and control;

• Informing through educational communication;

• Playing with other modes of communication to create emotional involvement; and

• Modification of the environment that respects the principles of the nudge.