FEATURE13 October 2021

Branching out: The growing pains of behavioural science

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Behavioural economics Features Impact

As behavioural science grows from its academic roots to become more applicable for wider use, it must address a new set of challenges and opportunities. Elen Lewis reports.

Tree rings on forest backdrop

Behavioural science is no longer a peripheral activity. From nudging people to make better choices about health and helping to combat climate change, to empowering the business world to better understand consumer behaviour, this discipline is influencing many areas of life.

There’s no question that best practice in this discipline has a magical potency. These examples are almost Disney-like in their impeccable storytelling.

Take the Colombian Ministry of the Environment and Sustainable Development’s work with Ogilvy on the problem of the pesky lionfish, escaped from an aquarium and endangering hundreds of species. Behavioural science helped to solve the issue with a beautifully simple idea – eat it. By working with Colombian chefs and creating an entirely new supply chain, Colombians were encouraged to eat the lionfish, depleting its numbers. With 80% of the country’s population Catholic, even local priests were encouraging their congregations to try lionfish for their Lent and Easter dinners. Colombians ate one species and saved thousands in ...