Behaviour Change by Design

Our vision is to accelerate progress in changing behaviour by redesigning environments to improve health for all.


Impact of decreasing the proportion of higher energy foods and reducing portion sizes on food purchased in worksite cafeterias: A stepped-wedge randomised controlled trial

Posted: 15/09/2021

Unhealthy food environments contribute to high and increasing rates of obesity. There is growing evidence that interventions that target the food environment may be effective at reducing energy intake. The current study aimed to investigate whether two such interventions could result in people buying food and drinks that are lower in calories.


How visible are e-cigarette and smoking paraphernalia retail displays in England? And is visibility higher in more deprived areas?

Posted: 14/09/2021

Tobacco (smoking) retail displays are banned in many countries, including in England. Following a ban, tobacco products are often stored within covered units, although typically the units are visible and positioned below tobacco signage. These bans are put in place because tobacco retail displays are linked to increased smoking among adults, and greater susceptibility to smoking among young people, leading to poorer health.

There is no equivalent ban on displays of electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) or smoking paraphernalia (products such as cigarette lighters) in England, which are often positioned alongside covered tobacco storage units.


Beyond choice architecture: advancing the science of changing behaviour at scale

Posted: 17/08/2021

Our new publication is out which addresses the global threats to population and planetary health requires changing many behaviours at scale. This demands consideration not only of the effect size of an intervention but also its reach – the proportion of the population exposed to the intervention.

We propose that a relatively under-researched and generally poorly specified set of interventions involving changes to physical micro-environments – often referred to as Choice Architecture – has the potential to make a significant contribution to meeting this urgent challenge.


The Research Programme

We are a Wellcome-funded collaboration bringing together a team of behavioural and cognitive scientists across the Universities of Cambridge and Bristol. Our aim is to run a series of field and laboratory studies to test the promise of a type of intervention – altering cues in our immediate physical environments – to promote healthier behaviour. These are sometimes known as “choice architecture” or “nudging”. We are also interested in how to facilitate the implementation of this evidence. Ultimately, our hope is that this will lead to improved health for everyone.

In the most ambitious co-ordinated set of studies to date, we will conduct a series of linked field and laboratory studies to estimate effect sizes of promising Choice Architecture interventions to reduce food, alcohol and tobacco consumption. Enabled by unprecedented collaborations, these will be conducted in supermarkets, bars and cafeterias with interventions optimised through laboratory studies determining mechanisms.