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Influencing behaviour change: Understanding human behaviour

04/10/16 08:00
Ash Rishi




It’s a well-established truth, perhaps even to the point of cliché, that as human beings we are a product of our environments – to some extent at least. 

Yet the human race is, and always will be, capable of making great changes – not just to our own lives but to society and the wider world as a whole. Besides the evolution of humanity, we have influenced the physical progress (for better or worse) of the planet itself, and so much so that Earth’s survival could even depend on us.

When it comes to behaviour change, however, we struggle for a number of reasons. If we want to alter our own actions or habits in order to be healthier, happier or more successful, the enemy we face is simply the temptation to resist progress by simply sticking to ‘what we are used to’ (i.e. what we are most comfortable with). We’ve already convinced ourselves that the challenge is worthwhile, so half the job is done.

Yet if we want to alter the actions of others, the enemy is twice as strong. Besides the will of that individual which encourages them to give in to the temptation of what is more comfortable, we are also faced with the rational, conscious objections of that person. In other words, both the ‘soul’ and the ‘flesh’ may be unwilling, so the difficulty of change is doubled.

So in order to bring about change in other people, it’s firstly a matter of persuasion – with encouragement to remain steadfast (which is all we need for change in ourselves) coming later.

Influencing behaviour change: It’s time for personalisation, our latest white paper takes an in-depth look at how healthcare professionals can be more persuasive in bringing about behaviour change in patients, starting with the premise of understanding human behaviour on multiple levels. Using new findings presented at the European Health Psychology Society and British Psychological Society Division of Health Psychology Conference 2016, it aims to give a fuller understanding of human behaviour from a scientific/sociological point of view, and then outline steps healthcare professionals can make to effectively bring about behaviour change in patients.

Starting with the basis of all human behaviour being the result of either intentional or automatic actions, the paper outlines why making the distinction is essential for professionals who are serious about persuading patients to make lifestyle and habit changes. After grasping this distinction, they must then understand which type of behaviour their particular messages aim to influence. In other words, are they aiming for a conscious or sub-conscious reaction, and what is the best approach to take for each case?

As the paper outlines, there is no such thing as a ‘simple’ answer to the last question. Not only are all patients different, but each individually responds to a multitude of factors which affect both intentional and automatic actions, so a ‘one size fits all’ approach is a waste of time – even towards groups of patients in a certain age, gender, ethnic or cultural group.   

Yet beyond grasping the difference between intentional and automatic behaviour, the paper discusses risk communication, advises on approaches for greater adherence to treatments, and outlines the ideal behaviour change intervention based on experts’ research and conclusions. It also proposes how, with the successful application of its proposed methods, behaviour change can be more achievable and effective in future – and therefore beneficial to healthcare as a whole.

Click on the image below to get your copy of the influencing behaviour change white paper. 

Behaviour Change

Topics: Adherence, Behaviour Change

Ash Rishi

Ash Rishi is the Managing Director of COUCH, based in Manchester, UK. COUCH is a medical communications agency focusing on the pharmaceutical, healthcare and life sciences industry. Ash has over 10 years experience in pharma marketing and has delivered activities across UK, Europe, US, Canada and Latin America. His area of expertise include branding, communications, stakeholder development, digital learning and engagement strategies.

See more posts by Ash Rishi