• Julie de Vaan

Change behaviour in the long term: Push more than just one button

Behaviour has no on and off switch. Our behaviour is determined by the settings of a whole set of buttons in our head. To really change behaviour, it takes more than pressing a single button.

Although behaviour sometimes seems simple, there is more to it than you might initially think. People have a whole network of buttons in their heads. Pressing those buttons causes certain behaviour. It would be easy if we could look at these buttons separately. Take "fear" for example. Most people fear the consequences of climate change. But do people only do things that are good for the climate?

No, because it's not that simple. Other buttons in the network are also important, and they can reduce, cancel out, or even reverse the effect of our fear for consequences of climate change. For example, because of our "preference for direct rewards", we love to be under the hot shower longer than necessary. Our "opinion about an organization" determines whether we believe whatever that organization tells us about climate change. And if we don't "feel able to make an impact", we will not change behaviour because we think it's useless, or worse, we will no longer care about the climate at all.

So there is a whole network of buttons in our head. How those buttons are pressed ultimately determines our behaviour. There is no on or off switch for desired behaviour. It is a whole system that must be set up properly to really change behaviour. So don't focus on a single button, but take all important buttons into account. This requires more commitment, but also really results in a long-term behavioural change. And that is exactly what we need to tackle problems such as climate change.


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