Live from HXD: Asking Better Questions with Behavioral Design

Asking Better Questions with Behavioral Design, by Pauline Kabitsis

The questions that we ask and the frameworks that we use are going to impact the solutions we come up with.

  • Health belief model,
  • Theory of planned behavior,
  • Com-b model

All these models help us collect data. But they focus primarily on the individual. They ask us: what can I understand about a singular person in a silo? Context is not included in these frameworks.

Example: Health belief model

If we use the Health belief model, we consider the person’s perceived susceptibility, e.g. do they think this is likely to affect them. We also look at perceived severity – how serious does the person think it is? Third, perceived benefits, and fourth self-efficacy: do they think they can do this.

All of these factors will affect behavior… but they don’t consider policy (like labeling calories on a menu as a policy to affect healthy eating), or fiscal measures or incentives, trust, history, social norms, or access. A more holistic model might help us to target someone by understanding the person’s situation and context.

Sometimes a framework or model shows that a person has all the factors to do a certain belief, but due to their cultural or societal lack of trust or lack of access, they do not.

Behavioral design questions model

At Common Thread, Pauline’s team looks at not only the individual level, but also the social, structural, and historical level. This addresses typical model questions, but also:

  • Social factors: how do the community, peers, and people in power affect decisions
  • Infrastructure: is the structure there to provide access
  • Historical: is there precedent or trauma that would affect decision making

This allows us to weight the factors.

We also need to ask broader questions: not “how do we get people to wear masks” but “how do we decrease Covid infections.” Masks may not be available, but there are other behaviors and choices to help decrease infections.

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