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A talk given by Professor Karen Pine of Do Something Different at the Drink Aware seminar entitled, Can Technology Really Change Behaviour.
Karen shows how Do Something Different is making great strides in this area and also warns of the traps inherent in taking behaviour change into the digital sphere.
1. Technology must not become another means of transmitting information.
Too many traditional behaviour change approaches have been predicated on the ‘information deficit model’. This assumes that people lack knowledge (e.g. about how to live a healthy life). And that if we simply educate them about healthy living they will act in their own best interests. But the human brain is a habit machine. And knowing what to do is no guarantee that people will do it. So we must avoid using technology simply to impart more information, but in a jazzier, prettier, more interactive way. Technology must be used to address what people DO, not what they KNOW. That’s what Do Something Different does. It changes people through small positive actions. It assumes they already have a good idea of what they should do, but they just need help doing it.
2. Technology can personalise behaviour change
Behaviour change is more likely to result from an intervention that the individual feels is relevant and personal to them. The diagnostics we use at Do Something Different mean a person can input their personal details online. Then our system rapidly creates a bespoke programme for them that’s delivered over the following few weeks. With our sophisticated technology behaviour change no longer has to be a ‘one size fits all’ approach. And each Do-er also has a personal Do Zone to record and share their change journey.
3. Technology can make behaviour change interventions more timely.
The best time to remind a person to change is when they are in ‘doing’ mode, not in ‘thinking’ mode. Most people intend to lead a healthier life when leaving the GP’s surgery with the doctor’s warnings still ringing in their ears. But it’s when they’re back home and reaching for the booze or the burger that an intervention needs to strike. On a Do Something Different programme their Do’s arrive regularly via text or email. So, long after the person has forgotten about the health warnings or their good intentions, a Do pops up as a timely reminder. And it’s always something small that will be fun to do. Because people change when they’re having fun. They change through small positive actions. It all adds up. That’s why we change behaviour one Do at a time, using the best technology around.
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