OPINION5 September 2023

Crawford Hollingworth: Rethinking the gap

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Behavioural science Impact Opinion Sustainability Trends

Crawford Hollingworth examines how the intention-action gap can be reduced or eliminated.

black and white photograph of a man and a young child planting a tree

Often, when encouraged to change particular behaviours, people say they intend to change, but fail to follow through. Using the latest insights from behavioural science, however, there are new ways in which this intention-action gap can be reduced or eliminated:

  • Can we build stronger intentions for behaviour change using more lateral motivations and reasoning?
  • Can we make intentions stronger by harnessing societal awareness to create more pressure to change?
  • Can we make the desired behaviour change easier to achieve?

One idea is to ask if we are building the intention to change in the most effective way. For example, recent work has found that it might be productive to highlight a more direct personal gain to build stronger intentions to change. Abstract or collective societal goals can sometimes lack a more appealing ‘what’s in it for me?’ angle and fail to turn intention into action. A recent trial by Unilever and the Behavioural Insights Team found that using climate pragmatism and climate-optimistic ...