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  • Julie de Vaan

Pushing the right buttons with our Behavioural Maps

Updated: May 10

About Behavioural Maps and how to apply them in practice

With every choice we make, a lot happens in our head. There are all kinds of psychological processes behind our behaviour, of which we are usually unaware. There is no such thing as an on or off switch for behaviour. We actually have a whole network of buttons in our head. The way these buttons are pushed at the moment we are making choices, determines which choices we make.

Changing behaviour effectively and in the long term is complicated. It is important to know which buttons are important, how they influence each other, and how to push them right to get people to make certain choices.

To make that easier, we develop Behavioural Maps. They make psychological knowledge and behavioural science more understandable, manageable and applicable. We will now explain what a Behavioural Map is, and why it's so valuable when applying knowledge about behaviour in practice.

What is a Behavioural Map?

A Behavioural Map is actually a summary of everything you have to know about the way our behaviour is determined. It is a simplified representation of the processes in our head.

A Behavioural Map provides an overview of all buttons that influence the choices people make, shows how these buttons determine the way choices are made, en how you can steer or influence these choices. Easier said, a Behavioural Map shows you what you have to take into account if you want to influence people's choices.

The buttons from the Behavioural Map are general, meaning they are in everyones head and can always influence the choices they make. If all the buttons where pushed the right way, everybody would always show the desired behaviour.

So, whether the buttons from the Behavioural Map are pushed the right way, determines whether people will show the desired behaviour. But the "current settings" of the buttons, and the way you can push them best to change behaviour, depend on the situation (consisting of a certain organization that wants to elicit certain behaviour from a certain target audience in a certain environment).

Therefore, the goal is to push as many buttons as possible, in as many situations as possible, to make sure as many people as possible will show the desired behaviour. And the more concrete a situation is, the more precisely you can push the right buttons the right way.

How to apply a Behavioural Map in practice?

To really change behaviour, you have to push as many buttons as possible in as many situations as possible. This can be done by using Behavioural Maps as a starting point or as input for your policies and actions on different sustainability issues, because they will show you how choices are made, and what you should do to effectively change behaviour.

This helps to quickly and easily set up or optimize ideas and actions. Do you want to make certain business processes more sustainable? Develop a campagne to stimulate more sustainable choices? Or create a certain environment that evokes sustainable behaviour? With a Behavioural Map, you will know exactly what you should do to effectively change your target audience's behaviour.

Next to that, a Behavioural Map can also provide directions, guidance and structure to your long term plans. It gives you insight in which buttons you already push, and which buttons need some extra attention in future plans. This way, you also prevent pushing the same (or the wrong) buttons with your actions.

So, how do Behavioural Maps help to effectively change behaviour?

Behavioural Maps offer guidance and support with knowledge from behavioural science and behavioural change. They are useful for direct concrete actions, as well as for long term plans. They make sure you know what you have to do to effectively change behaviour. And they make sure that your actions align to each other, build up on each other, are well-founded and more appealing to others. They save you time and energy you will not spend on actions that will not work in the long term. By using Behavioural Maps as the basis (or as input) for your sustainability plans and actions, you can continue to do what you do, but more effectively, because you take people's behaviour into account.


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