Behaviour Change by Design

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

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What is the impact of e-cigarette retail displays on attitudes to smoking and e-cigarette use in children?

Posted: 25/04/2022

Tobacco retail displays are banned in many countries, including in the UK. This ban is to address the link between these displays and increased smoking among adults, and greater susceptibility to smoking among children, leading to poorer health. Tobacco products are stored instead within covered units; however, these units often remain visible and positioned below tobacco signage.

There is no equivalent ban on displays of electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) in the UK, which are often positioned alongside covered tobacco storage units. There is currently an absence of evidence on whether e-cigarette retail displays are linked to increased smoking or e-cigarette use.

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Changing the assortments of foods and drinks on offer to consumers could make diets leaner and greener

Posted: 20/04/2022

Altering the mix of foods and drinks available in shops, restaurants and bars could help improve diets, reduce inequalities and protect the environment, according to a new analysis by Professor Theresa Marteau and colleagues at the Universities of Cambridge, UCL, Oxford and Aston.

Such measures, called availability interventions, might see a proportion of confectionery items on offer in supermarkets replaced with fruit or nuts, for example; or some meat based meals replaced with plant-based ones on a restaurant menu.

Unhealthy diets are one of the largest contributors to preventable disease, health inequalities and early deaths worldwide. Policies and interventions that reduce the supply and consumption of meat, alcohol and sugary foods would improve population health globally, reduce health inequalities and help limit environmental harms associated with food production.

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Does communicating evidence of multiple compared to single benefits increase public support for policies?

Posted: 14/02/2022

Reducing the amount of high calorie foods, meat and alcohol people consume would improve population and planetary health. Interventions shown to work, however, tend to lack public support, which reduces their chances of being implemented into government policies. Telling people that policies are effective can increase public support but there is uncertainty about how best to communicate this information.

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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.

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