Behaviour Change by Design

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


No evidence that physical activity calorie-equivalent (PACE) labelling changes food purchasing in worksite cafeterias

Posted: 08/11/2022

An experiment carried out across ten workplace cafeterias found no significant change in the overall number of calories purchased when food and drink labels showed the amount of physical activity required to burn off their calories.

“Physical activity calorie equivalent (PACE) labels, contrary to expectations, may have little or no impact on the food people buy in worksite cafeterias,” said Professor Theresa Marteau, senior author, Director, Behaviour and Health Research Unit, University of Cambridge

More than three in five UK adults are overweight or obese, increasing their risk of diseases such as type 2 diabetes and cancer. A major factor that contributes to this is excess energy intake – in other words, eating too many calories. Measures that can help reduce energy intake could help tackle the obesity problem.


People smoke more when smoking from larger pack sizes

Posted: 07/11/2022

The first experimental evidence that people smoke more when smoking from larger pack sizes has been published in Addiction today. The research was designed to test whether lowering cigarette pack sizes from 25 to 20 reduced the number of cigarettes smoked.

Smoking remains one of the largest risk factors for disease globally and is a major contributor to the gap in life expectancy and years lived in good health between the richest and poorest groups.

Food studies show that smaller portion and pack sizes reduce how much people eat and reducing glass and bottle sizes can reduce the amount of alcohol that people drink.


Do the size of servings, glasses and bottles influence how much people drink?

Posted: 13/10/2022

People consume more food and non-alcoholic drinks when presented with larger portions or packages, and when using larger items of tableware, such as plates or glasses. But what about when presented with larger servings and containers of alcohol? We conducted a review to summarise the evidence for the influence of the size of servings glasses and bottles on how much people drink, to investigate whether making sizes smaller could reduce alcohol consumption across populations, thereby improving health.

We found 10 relevant published reports of 15 studies and one review. Twelve studies and the review focused on wine drinking, one study on beer and two on both. All were conducted in England, by just two research groups.


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.