"In the gap between intentions fading and habits forming, interventions fail.”
These are the wise— and scientific— words of Wendy Wood, a Professor of Psychology and Business at the University of Southern California, who presented her research on how habits guide behavior at a brown bag lunch at the World Bank.
Standard interventions are generally successful at increasing the motivation of people to change as they raise awareness and understanding around behaviors we'd like to change and new behaviors we'd like to form. However, they often fail to develop long-term habits for people.
According to Professor Wood, even if you can change behavior for a short period, old behaviors may be stickier and reappear after a while. The formation of new habits is often analogous to climbing a mountain and returning back down again: the new habit is performed at the start of an intervention but then falls off again as intentions are overcome by other factors.
The Third Summer Institute in Communication and Governance Reform came to a close on June 7, 2013. The participants completed a very intense yet extremely enriching two weeks of learning from world-class researchers and thinkers in strategic communication in a close-knit setting.
As mentioned in my previous blog, the program was developed with an understanding that successful implementation of policy reforms requires behavior change which can only be induced when non-technical, real life issues that relate to people and politics are treated as priority along with technical issues. Human behavior is at the core of why things happen the way they do, whether we are talking about why some people smoke, or why some politicians implement policies that are detrimental to their country.