Changing Behaviours
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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.
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Chapter 3: In the heat of the moment: gambling and saving behaviours

On the Rise of the Psychological State

Rhys Jones, Jessica Pykett and Mark Whitehead


Much of the backdrop to the emergence of behaviour change as a philosophy of government in the UK and beyond has been centred on the many crises of neoliberalism. As we proceed to show in the following chapters, the overwhelming predominance of neoliberal ideas as a means of organizing society and the economy has led to the emergence of serious challenges to the environment, the human body and the streets on which we live. We are using too many resources, and this is leading to manifold environmental problems, most notably climate change. We are overeating and drinking to excess, and this is causing severe health problems and a related set of pressures on health services. We are driving too quickly on residential streets, thus undermining the quality of life of the residents who live on them. All of these challenges have been addressed through a series of coercive legal measures, such as the imposition of ever-higher tax rates on fuel, attempts to ban advertising for junk food on television during peak-time viewing, and the designation of lower speed limits on many streets within our towns and cities. But, at the same time, a suite of behaviour change interventions have also been viewed as a way of providing potential ‘neuroliberal’ solutions to these problems, as individuals are cajoled subtly into making appropriate decisions that will ensure their own – and the broader society’s – health, wealth and happiness.

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