Transforming Behaviour Change: Beyond Nudge and Neuromania

A report on the relationship between neuroscience, behavior change, and society that examines how self-awareness and decision making shape our environment.

Dr. Jonathan Rowson, head of the RSA Social Brain Project, asserts that addressing the major collective challenges of our age, such as climate change, requires a deeper and more sophisticated understanding of the relationship between those challenges, our brains, and human behavior. Through an exploration of neuroscience's role in social science, economics and public policy, the report focuses on ways individuals can cultivate the types of self-awareness and behavior change they hope to achieve.

The report poses the following ideas:

  • As a social species, our brains develop through a process of social learning that affects our perception of ourselves, of others, and our behaviors (such as the ability to communicate our intentions and adapt to new situations). 
  • Self-awareness can shape the social and biological conditions that drive our actions.
  • The popular "Nudge" theory of Thaler and Sunstein shifts people's environments to make behavior change possible without changing attitudes or values.
  • What is needed is the "Steer" approach that holistically aligns behavior change strategies with human nature to foster transformative behavior changes.

"21st century challenges vary enormously in scope and scale, but the major issues of our time including climate change, enduring financial instability and demographic changes are adaptive in nature, in that facing up to them means changing our attitudes, beliefs and values, and not merely carrying on as blissfully (or perhaps not so blissfully) ignorant consumers as our behaviour is changed for us."  (p. 17)

"If we are serious about transformative social change, we need to at least be open to the idea that transformation begins at the level of consciousness. " (p. 28)

The report concludes with an outline of the six ideas that contribute to their model of change (p.31):

Date: 2011
Organization: RSA Projects
Strategic Approach: Evaluation, Other
Organization: RSA Projects
Strategic Approach: Evaluation, Other

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