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Can we really persuade people to change their behaviour?

Can we really persuade people to change their behaviour?

admin | November 30, 2010

Today here in the UK we have had the announcement of a white paper on healthy lifestyles.

This seems to be a mix of persuasion – or ‘nudging’ – and getting the food industry and others involved to change their products.

Health Minister Andrew Lansley is talking about drastically changing the law in terms of the sale of cigarettes – hiding them under the counter and banning logos etc on the packet. Do such tough measures confirm that efforts to persuade people to change their behaviour don’t work?

Is the five portions of fruit and veg a day message really working do you think – or is it just preaching to the converted and those that really need to improve their diet carry on regardless.  I must say in our house we are slightly obsessed about it, but thats really due to other factors prompting us to pay more attention to our health. I see little evidence of it in many homes.

I think this raises a number of issues for us to think about:

  • The power or persuasion – do all those government campaigns really work
  • Is it right that the Government is trying to change our behaviour anyway?

And while on the topic – have you come across this idea of ‘nudging’ if I understand correctly it means making it easier for people to behave in a certain way – for example, it being easier to sign up for organ donation. There is a whole programme on BBC Radio 4 where ‘nudge economics’ and the rights and wrongs of this approach is discussed – the Moral Maze. Some good points made, but it is about 30 minutes long so you may not want to listen to all of it – it is on the BBC website for another four days only – so get there quick! (its the progamme broadcast on 24 November).

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