23rd January 2024

What are the principles of behaviour change?

EAST, MINDSPACE, and COM-B frameworks are all useful for understanding motivation and influence. The EAST framework focuses on making behaviours easy, attractive, social, and timely.

The MINDSPACE framework highlights factors like motivations, incentives, norms, defaults, salience, priming, affect, commitments, and ego.

The COM-B framework addresses capability, opportunity, and motivation. Brands can choose the framework that aligns with their goals and the behaviour they want to influence. Understanding behaviour change principles can help improve marketing effectiveness.

Consumer Behaviour

Often, ‘behaviour change’ is considered to be only for organisations that want to make large shifts in consumer behaviour, for example increasing the number of people exercising or reducing smoking rates. But, as Richard Chataway, author of ‘The Behaviour Business’, said: “If you are in business, you are in the business of behaviour — and unless a business influences behaviour, it will not succeed.”

We’ve been studying and applying behavioural science theory for several years, and we’re constantly reading, watching and listening to authors and practitioners to understand more.

What is behavioural science?

One of the modern legends of behavioural science is Daniel Kahneman. In his seminal book ‘Thinking, Fast and Slow’, he sets out many nudging principles that have influenced the advertising industry, behavioural economists and psychologists alike. While the book is hard-going, it’s an absolute must-read!


Key learnings from Daniel Kahneman’s book ‘Thinking, Fast and Slow’

  1. Dual process theory: central concept in the book is the idea that our brains operate using two different systems of thinking: System 1 and System 2. System 1 is fast, intuitive, and automatic, while System 2 is slow, deliberate, and effortful. Understanding how these systems work can help us make better decisions and avoid cognitive biases. This concept had a massive impact on the advertising industry, from how brands grow to how memory works in brand recall.
  2. Cognitive biases: The book highlights a wide range of cognitive biases that affect our thinking, including confirmation bias, hindsight bias, and availability heuristics, to name a few. Recognising these biases can help us become more aware of our own thought processes and avoid making irrational decisions. For brands and public sector organisations, understanding these unconscious biases can lead to a whole new way of idea generation and creative opportunities.
  3. Anchoring effect: The book discusses how our decisions can be influenced by irrelevant information, such as an arbitrary starting point or ‘anchor’. This can lead to irrational decisions, as our judgments are often anchored to irrelevant or inappropriate information. Drinks brands, cars marques, and even estate agents use the anchoring effect. eCommerce brands use this effect in their pricing strategy using enterprise ‘decoy’ prices to make their Pro subscriptions seem like good value.
  4. Prospect theory: Kahneman’s research on prospect theory shows that people are more averse to losses than they are motivated by gains. This can lead to risk aversion and irrational decision-making.
  5. Framing: The book highlights the importance of framing in decision-making. How a question or problem is framed can significantly impact how we perceive and respond to it. By changing the framing of a problem, we can influence how people think about and approach it.
  6. Happiness: The book explores the concept of happiness and how it is affected by our perceptions and experiences. It suggests that we are not always good judges of what makes us happy and that our perceptions of happiness can be influenced by factors such as social comparisons and our expectations. System1, the market research company, has shown that advertising which generates positive emotions, including happiness, is much more effective, and memorable, and improves likeability.

Although a long read, ‘Thinking, Fast and Slow’ provides brilliant insights into the workings of the human mind and the cognitive biases that can affect our decision-making. The principles in the book also provide a solid background to behavioural science books from Richard Shotton, Phil Barden and Rory Sutherland.

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What are some of the key principles of Behaviour Change?

Some key principles of behaviour change and nudging are commonly recognised and applied across various fields, including advertising, PR, psychology, health, education, and business. Below are some of the most important principles of behaviour change:

Goal setting

Setting specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound goals is a key principle of behaviour change. By clearly identifying the goals, individuals are more likely to stay motivated and focused on achieving the desired outcome. Making specific plans for each goal can further assist in behaviour change.


Monitoring and tracking one’s behaviour is another important principle of behaviour change. By keeping track of one's actions, individuals can identify patterns, make adjustments, and track progress towards their goals. A diary or journal is a brilliant way to track progress


Providing feedback on one's behaviour is an effective way to promote behaviour change. Feedback can come from others or be self-generated, and it can help individuals stay accountable and make informed decisions about their behaviour


Reinforcement is a key principle of behaviour change that involves rewarding or reinforcing desired behaviours. Positive reinforcement can increase the likelihood of a behaviour being repeated, while negative reinforcement can decrease the likelihood of an unwanted behaviour. All successful athletes talk to themselves. This inner coach can be a positive or negative force. Practice positive speaking by being nice to yourself.

Social support

Having social support from family, friends, or peers can be a powerful motivator for behaviour change. Social support can provide encouragement, accountability, and practical assistance to help individuals achieve their goals. I have found that making your goal public - announcing your goal to family, friends, colleagues or on social media is a great way to get feedback and stay motivated.


Self-efficacy refers to an individual's belief in their ability to successfully complete a task or achieve a goal. Increasing self-efficacy can help individuals overcome obstacles and stay motivated in the face of challenges. By setting and completing goals, you can prove to yourself you have what it takes.


The environment can play a significant role in shaping behaviour. Modifying the physical or social environment can make it easier for individuals to adopt and maintain desired behaviours. If you're trying to lose weight, don't buy unhealthy food. If you're trying to exercise more pack your gym kit and put it by the door the night before.

By applying these principles of behaviour change, individuals and organisations can promote positive changes in behaviour and achieve desired outcomes.

How do businesses and governments encourage behaviour change?

Businesses and governments use a variety of strategies to encourage behaviour change in the general public and workforce. Here are some of the most common approaches:

Education and awareness campaigns

Businesses and governments can develop education and awareness nudge marketing campaigns to inform the public about the benefits of behaviour change and provide information about how to adopt new behaviours. These campaigns may use various media, such as TV, radio, social media, and print. There are some world-famous campaigns including drink driving, anti-smoking and water safety campaigns that have changed behaviours and saved lives.


Incentives and rewards

Providing incentives or rewards can motivate individuals to adopt new behaviours. For example, businesses may offer discounts or other rewards to customers who bring reusable bags, while governments may offer tax incentives, grants or rebates to individuals who install energy-efficient appliances. This carrot-and-stick approach has been combined with loss aversion and negative social proof to great effect.


Regulations and policies

Governments can use regulations and policies to encourage behaviour change. For example, governments may implement laws requiring businesses to reduce their environmental impact and/or establish public health policies that encourage individuals to adopt healthier behaviours. Alcohol and sugar taxes, carbon emission targets are amongst a host of approaches taken.


Social norms and peer pressure

Social norms and peer pressure can have a huge influence on behaviour. Businesses and governments can promote positive social norms and use social influence strategies to encourage individuals to adopt desired behaviours. For example, brands regularly highlight the popularity of a particular behaviour or product to encourage adoption, while governments may use public campaigns to promote positive behaviours. Hotels, travel companies and fashion websites have become very adept at communicating fast-selling products and low stock levels.


Infrastructure and design

Businesses and governments can also modify infrastructure and design to encourage behaviour change. For example, businesses may design products that make it easier for individuals to adopt desired behaviours, such as reusable water bottles or energy-efficient appliances, while governments may invest in infrastructure that supports active transportation, such as bike lanes or pedestrian-friendly streets.

By using these and other strategies, businesses and governments can encourage behaviour change and promote positive outcomes for individuals and society as a whole.

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What about specifically behaviour change campaigns focused on public health such as eating and exercise?

Behaviour change campaigns focused on public health, such as those targeting diet and exercise, often use a combination of strategies to encourage individuals to adopt healthier behaviours. Here are some common approaches:

Education and awareness: Public health campaigns often use education and awareness strategies to inform the public about the health benefits of healthy eating and regular exercise. These campaigns may provide information about the risks of unhealthy behaviours and offer tips for adopting healthier habits.

Social norms and peer pressure: Social norms and peer pressure can be powerful motivators for behaviour change. Public health campaigns may use social influence strategies to encourage individuals to adopt healthy behaviours, such as highlighting the popularity of healthy eating or exercise among peers, like our campaign for Solihull Borough Council and the campaign for the NHS and Luton Borough Council, shown here:

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Incentives and rewards: Offering incentives or rewards can also motivate individuals to adopt healthier behaviours. For example, some public health campaigns offer free gym memberships or other rewards to individuals who complete a certain number of exercise sessions or make dietary changes.

Infrastructure and design: Creating environments that support healthy behaviours is another effective approach. For example, public health campaigns may promote the development of safe and accessible walking and biking paths, or encourage the availability of healthy food options in schools and workplaces.

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Self-monitoring and feedback: Self-monitoring and feedback can be powerful tools for behaviour change. Public health campaigns may encourage individuals to track their food intake and physical activity levels, and offer feedback on progress towards healthy behaviour goals.

Social support: Social support can also be an important factor in promoting healthy behaviours. Public health campaigns may encourage individuals to participate in group exercise classes or seek support from family or friends when making dietary changes.

By using these and other strategies, public health campaigns can encourage behaviour change and promote healthier outcomes for individuals and communities.

How did the government apply the EAST framework to encourage people and businesses to pay their tax?

The EAST framework is a behavioural economics approach to behaviour change that stands for Easy, Attractive, Social, and Timely. The UK government has applied this framework in its communications to encourage people and businesses to pay their taxes on time and in full.

Here are some nudge examples of how the UK government has used the EAST framework to encourage tax compliance:

  1. Easy: The government has simplified the tax system and made it easier for individuals and businesses to pay their taxes. For example, individuals can now file their tax returns online, and businesses can use digital tools to calculate and report their taxes.
  1. Attractive: The government has emphasised the benefits of paying taxes and made it more attractive to comply. For example, the government has highlighted the importance of taxes in funding public services like healthcare and education.
  1. Social: The government has used social norms to encourage tax compliance. For example, the government has emphasised that the majority of people and businesses in the UK pay their taxes on time and in full.
  1. Timely: The government has used reminders and deadlines to encourage timely tax payments. For example, the government sends out reminders to individuals and businesses about upcoming tax deadlines.

The UK government has applied the EAST framework to encourage tax compliance by making it easier, more attractive, and more social to pay taxes, while also emphasising the importance of timely payments. By using this framework, the government has been able to promote behaviour change and increase tax compliance.

The EAST framework isn’t confined to the UK government, it can equally be applied well to consumer-facing marketing. We often use EAST and add two additional pillars: ‘Contextual’ and ‘Relative’ which makes CATERS, a fitting word for behaviour encouraging behaviour change! This forms a solid basis for our behavioural science workshops!

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Should brands employ the EAST, MINDSPACE or COM-B frameworks to understand motivation and influence?

The EAST, MINDSPACE, and COM-B frameworks are all useful approaches for understanding motivation and influence, but each has its own strengths and weaknesses. Here's a brief overview of each framework:

  1. EAST: The EAST framework emphasises the importance of making behaviours Easy, Attractive, Social, and Timely. This framework is particularly useful for brands that want to encourage specific behaviours, such as purchasing a product or signing up for a service. By making these behaviours easier, more attractive, and more socially acceptable, brands can increase the likelihood that consumers will take the desired actions

2. MINDSPACE: The MINDSPACE framework highlights the key factors that influence behaviour, such as our Motivations, Incentives, Norms, Defaults, Salience, Priming, Affect, Commitments, and Ego. This framework is useful for understanding the underlying psychological and social factors that drive behaviour, which can help brands design more effective marketing and advertising campaigns.

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  1. COM-B: The COM-B framework is a more comprehensive approach that focuses on three key components of behaviour: Capability, Opportunity, and Motivation. According to this framework, behaviour change requires addressing all three of these components. This framework is useful for brands that want to understand why consumers are not taking the desired actions and how they can be encouraged to do so.

In summary, brands can use any of these frameworks to understand motivation and influence. The choice of framework will depend on the specific goals of the brand and the nature of the behaviour they are trying to influence.

By understanding the principles of behaviour change, our cognitive biases and how memory and our brains work, we can be more effective in building brands and improving marketing effectiveness.

If you’d like to learn more about how we can help you with your behaviour change programme please drop us a line.

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