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Influencing Behaviours: Moving Beyond the Individual

Research Funding Body

Scottish Government


Darnton, A and Horne, J

Project Objectives

This guide offers a framework for influencing behaviour. It brings together the main concepts from across the principal academic disciplines and turns them into a tool to be used throughout the policy process. It also provides a way to evaluate new and existing policy and interventions.

Why relevant to improve implementation and uptake of water quality measures

Influencing behaviours is difficult to achieve and there is no off-the-shelf nor ‘magic bullet’ solutions. This guide offers a tool for practitioners whose work ultimately aims at engaging people and influencing their behaviours in order to deliver improved outcomes. This tool is designed to be applicable in a range of topic areas which require social change, including water quality.


Literature review

Key Results

This guide considers that there are three levels or contexts which need to be considered in influencing behaviour, these include the Individual, Social and Material. The individual context includes the factors held by the individual that affect the choices and the behaviours he or she undertakes. The social context refers to the factors that exist beyond the individual in the social realm, yet shape his or her behaviours. The material context includes factors that are ‘out there’ in the environment and wider world, which both constrain and shape behaviour.

There are a range of factors which will influence behaviour within each of these contexts including;

  • Individual - values, beliefs, attitudes, costs and benefits, emotions, agency, skill and habit
  • Social - opinion leaders, institutions, norms, roles and identity, tastes, meanings, networks and relationships
  • Material context – rules and regulations, technologies, infrastructure, objects, time and schedules

All need to be considered and understood when creating and/or evaluating policy.



Contact Person

Jackie Horne

Further Information

Project Information
Project Type: 
Active Project


Areas of Interest

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The James Hutton Research Institute is the result of the merger in April 2011 of MLURI and SCRI. This merger formed a new powerhouse for research into food, land use, and climate change.