Changing Behaviours

Changing Behaviours

On the Rise of the Psychological State

Rhys Jones, Jessica Pykett and Mark Whitehead

Changing Behaviours charts the emergence of the behaviour change agenda in UK based public policy making since the late 1990s. By tracing the influence of the behavioural sciences on Whitehall policy makers, the authors explore a new psychological orthodoxy in the practices of governing. Drawing on original empirical material, chapters examine the impact of behaviour change policies in the fields of health, personal finance and the environment. This topical and insightful book analyses how the nature of the human subject itself is re-imagined through behaviour change, and develops an analytical framework for evaluating the ethics, efficacy and potential empowerment of behaviour change.

Chapter 4: Replanning the street: changing behaviours by spatial design

Rhys Jones, Jessica Pykett and Mark Whitehead

Subjects: economics and finance, behavioural and experimental economics, politics and public policy, public policy


In the Odenplan underground station in Stockholm, Sweden, there is a staircase painted as a piano wired up to make musical sounds as people walk on it (Figure 4.1). Its purpose is to encourage people to prefer the stairs to the lifts or escalator and get people moving, fit and healthy. The piano staircase was an initiative in 2009 of car company Volkswagen, which runs a ‘fun theory’ award, using fun ideas to change people’s behaviour. The principles behind the piano staircase have much in common with the core ideas of behaviour change outlined in Chapters 1 and 2. It is aimed at changing people’s behaviour not by regulation, legislation, incentive or punishment, but through subtle environmental cues which guide people towards actions and decisions which are deemed to be in their longer-term best interests. A second example is provided by Thaler and Sunstein in Nudge (2008: 37) in their home town of Chicago, where white stripes have been painted on to the road at the scenic Lake Shore Drive in order to encourage drivers to slow down on this dangerous stretch of bendy road.

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