New tactics to nudge habit change for open defecation behavior | Source: World Bank Water Blog, March 31 2016 |
Open defecation remains a critical global health challenge, affecting almost 1 billion people around the world and contributing significantly to the estimated 842,000 people who die each year because of poor sanitation, hygiene practices, and unsafe water supplies.
Public toilet in the shanty town of Ciudad Pachacutec, Ventanilla District, El Callao Province – Peru Photo: Monica Tijero / World Bank
Most behavior change approaches and frameworks for addressing open defecation have focused on relatively conscious, “reflective” drivers of behavior, including people’s emotions (such as pride or shame), rational knowledge (e.g., of germ theory), social norms, and explicit action plans (such as commitments to change).
Using the framework popularized by renowned social psychologist Daniel Kahneman, these factors can be described as “System 2” drivers of behavior i.e., relatively conscious and motivational factors. It is now well established, however, that human behavior can also be heavily influenced by “System 1” drivers i.e., relatively automatic, cue-driven factors.
In a newly released working paper by the World Bank Water Global Practice’s Water and Sanitation Program (WSP) “Nudging and Habit Change for Open Defecation: New Tactics from Behavioral Science”, we draw on basic scientific findings from psychology, cognitive science, and behavioral economics to propose a framework of eight “System 1” principles to support the initiation and maintenance of open defecation behavior change.
In doing so, the new working paper builds from the general framework advanced in the World Bank Group’s 2015 World Development Report “Mind, Society, and Behavior”, which emphasized three core insights from behavioral science, namely that people think automatically, think socially and think using mental models.
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