Behaviour change

Behaviour change is one of the primary functions of government communications – helping change and save lives, helping the government run more effectively as well as save taxpayer’s money.

Behaviour change is fundamental to all government communications, regardless of discipline. A behaviour is not a change in attitude, being more aware of something, being engaged in something, a culture shift or a social norm. These are often important steps in getting people to the stage where they adopt the behaviour but are not your ultimate behaviour goal or outcome. They are a means but not an end.

This guide sets out for all government communicators and lays out how you can use a behavioural approach to ensure your communications is strategic:

Strategic communications: a behavioural approach (PDF 951KB)

Depending on the behaviour you want to see from your audience you will be trying to influence them to:

  • Start or adopt a new behaviour such as joining the military or attending an internal training course;
  • Stop a harmful behaviour such as drinking and driving or posting harmful content on social media;
  • Continue or improve upon an existing positive behaviour such as paying your tax on time or remaining opted into your workplace pension;
  • Change or modify an existing harmful behaviour such as drinking less alcohol or modifying abusive behaviours in a relationship; or
  • Refrain from taking up a harmful behaviour such as breaching new internal security regulations or becoming involved in knife crime.

The GCS guide to behaviour change and communications (PDF 660KB – published 2014) provides a common framework for all government communicators wishing to apply behavioural approaches to their work.

Behavioural Insights Team (BIT)

The Behavioural Insights Team (BIT) applies findings from behavioural economics and psychology to public policy and services.

Since the team was set up in 2010 it has worked with almost every government department, and a wide range of local authorities, charities, NGOs, private sector partners and foreign governments. It is jointly owned by the Cabinet Office, Nesta, and its employees.