Why do we behave the way we do? Why does it seem so difficult to change behaviour? Common sense suggests, and many behaviour change programs optimistically assume, that we weigh up the pros and cons of a behaviour before we decide to perform it. But in reality, many of the behaviours that we undertake in our daily lives are “habits”, which are performed without much conscious thought or deliberation. As a result, conventional approaches to influencing behaviour (e.g., information and incentives) are less likely to be
effective when behaviours are habitual.

In this presentation, one of the world’s leading experts on habits—Professor Bas Verplanken—discusses the importance of understanding habits when developing interventions to influence behaviour (with a particular focus on environmental sustainability). He highlights how habits can be measured, broken and created, and offers guidance on timing interventions at key “moments of change” when habits are particularly vulnerable. Bas argues that habits can serve as barriers as well as opportunities, and should take centre stage in behaviour change interventions.

ABOUT THE SPEAKER: Bas Verplanken is a professor of psychology and the head of the Department of Psychology at the University of Bath, England. He specialises in theory-informed applied research, with a particular emphasis on habits in the health, consumer and environmental behaviour fields.

Bas Verplanken WA hosted by BehaviourWorks Australia—a collaboration between the Monash Sustainability Institute, EPA Victoria, The Shannon Company and Sustainability Victoria that brings together interdisciplinary
researchers with leading practitioners who share an interest in behaviour change research and environmental sustainability.

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