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Behavioural Science

Behavioural Science uses a range of validated theories and techniques to explain the psychological processes that drive behaviours. The insight gained can then be used to provide specific, evidenced-based recommendations.

Our in-house Behavioural Science Team are experts across several branches of behavioural science including Behavioural Economics, Psychology, Anthropology, Sociology, and Language and Behaviour Profiling. The team is always on hand to support the design and analysis stages of research projects.

When is Behavioural Science useful?

We regularly use Behavioural Science to inform solutions for commercial challenges in the areas of behaviour change, NPD/propositions/pricing, and campaigns/communications research.

Here are some typical questions that we can you answer:

woman selecting product in pharmacy

Understanding brand perceptions

How do HCPs/patients/payers conceptualise and differeniate brands?

How do patients think about and experience their illness?

Why do my stakeholders’ perceptions not reflect the ‘hard’ data?

How can we overcome patients’ inhibitions about certain treatments?

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Market shaping and decision making

What contextual factors and relationships influence stakeholder decision making?

How can we maintain or break prescribing habits to give our brand a strong market share?

What stage are my stakeholders at in terms of their ‘journey’ or decision-making process and how can I leverage this?

ale doctor and male patient

Optimising the patient journey

Why is treatment adherence and copliance low, and how can we nudge patients to increase compliance?

How can we empower patients to influence doctors’ prescribing?

How can we break/create habits?

What are the best ways to encourage behaviour change at each stage of the journey?

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Campaigns and communications

How can we communicate our message to various stakeholder in the most compelling way?

What messages could counter stakeholders’ objections?

What language resonates with my stakeholders and drives action?

How can we design messages to maximise certain behaviours?

Behavioural Science techniques

The techniques we use fall into three main categories:

HeuristicsHeuristics are cognitive or mental shortcuts that people use to simplify or speed up decisions, although they're not always optimal and can be irrational.

We identify which key heuristics are at play and then provide actionable solutions on how to counteract or boost them. This could be in anything from designing our materials to understanding or ‘nudging’ behaviour, be that in message testing, customer journeys or conjoint studies.

Behaviour change modelsBehaviour change models help to explain how you can change behaviour through environmental, personal or social factors.

A variety of models is available and we'll work with you to decide which approach would suit your research best. For reference, we often gravitate toward the COM-B Model, the Transtheoretical Model (TTM) and the ISM Model.

Psychological approachesWe use a range of psychological approaches to help explain what is guiding a particular behaviour. These include theories as well as procedural techniques.

Useful theories include Habit Loops, the Intention-Action Gap, Social Identity Theory and Nudge Theory, while procedures such as Language Analysis and naturalistic observation are ideal for message testing or shopper research as they can uncover the contextual drivers of behaviour, and identify which words are most effective at changing minds.

More about behaviour change models

The COM-B Behaviour Change Model suggests that Capability, Opportunity and Motivation all need to be present to change behaviour.

We use the COM-B model in projects that are focused on how to encourage or discourage an individual’s behaviour, such as how to quit smoking or increase environmentally-friendly behaviour.

Source: Michie et al (2011).

The TTM suggests that there are six stages of behaviour change:

  1. Precontemplation
  2. Contemplation
  3. Preparation
  4. Action
  5. Maintenance
  6. Termination.

It’s particularly useful in projects where we need to understand what stage consumers are currently at and how to move them onto the next stage.

Source: Prochaska and DiClemente (1983)

The ISM model suggests that the Individual, Social and Material contexts all influence behaviour and that any behaviour change interventions should target all these factors.

We use this model for policy level changes or macro level behaviour change, such as encouraging small to medium size businesses to adopt more sustainable behaviours.

Source: Darnton et al. (2013)

More about psychological approaches

Habit loops provide a framework for understanding what causes people to engage in certain behaviours. The process of a habit loop consists of three elements:

  • A cue
  • A routine
  • A reward.

Understanding these elements can help in understanding how to change bad habits or form better ones

In simple terms, the Intention-Action Gap is the difference between what people say they would like to or plan to do and what they actually do. For example, people often say they want to do more for the environment but don’t actually do anything further; or people make a New Year’s resolution to exercise more but don’t follow through with their intention.

Social identity is am individual’s sense of who they are based on their group membership(s). The central hypothesis of social identity theory is that affiliation with a group confers self-esteem and that members of an in-group may seek to find negative aspects of an out-group, thus enhancing their self-image.

Nudge theory says that the choices available to us influence the decisions we make, and therefore our behaviour. Nudges are indirect suggestions through deliberately designed choices which encourage positive helpful decisions, both for the people choosing and ideally for the wider interests of society too.

One of the most famous examples of nudge theory in practice was increasing the number of people in the UK with active pension schemes by introducing automatic enrolment so that workers avoided having to make the complicated decisions which had been putting them off. Since this scheme was introduced in 2012, active membership of private sector pension schemes jumped from 2.7 million to 7.7 million in 2016.

A Language and Behaviour (LAB) Profile is a powerful tool for understanding and influencing the behaviour of others. It was created by Roger Bailey and originates from the Meta-programmes of NLP (Neurolinguistic Programming).

By studying a person’s language patterns the profiler can identify how people trigger and maintain their interest level, how people deal with information and how they become convinced about something. These insights can show you what language would ‘click’ with them and motivate the behaviour you desire

Naturalistic observation is a technique with roots in anthropology. It involves observing the spontaneous behaviour of participants in their normal surroundings. The researcher simply records what they see in whatever way they can and this contributes greatly to understandings of how the participants environment shapes their behaviour. This is particularly helpful in shopper research, or medication adherence research.

Selected case studies

Great Green Sustainability Study20201022121738
Carbon Reduction for Businesses20201022120526
Smoking Cessation Research20201022114302

Meet the Behavioural Science team

Darryl Swift20200722164423
Chris Ralph20200727083100

Chris Ralph

Associate Director
Olivia Brickman20201104164529

Olivia Brickman

Associate Director and Head of Behavioural Science
Francesca Walker20200727093816

Francesca Walker

Graduate Research Executive