Mapping the opportunities for improving conservation by better incorporating human behaviour

Conservation has been slow to utilise new ideas from psychology and behavioural economics about shifting human behaviour through addressing social norms, messenger effects, cognitive biases and default decisions. Our workshop-centred study will systematically explore the potential for impacting conservation using such tools, and plan an agenda for testing them.

Project Aims

The overarching aim of this project is to conduct the broadest examination to date of the scope for new insights in behavioural science to help deliver biodiversity conservation. Our current understanding is limited in three ways: 

  • the lack of a systematic assessment of which behaviour changes are most important to target to achieve conservation impact;
  • the limited appreciation, by many of those working in conservation, of the diversity, applicability and limitations of behaviourally-informed interventions; and
  • the absence of a coordinated programme for testing and reporting-back on the most promising interventions across the conservation sector.

We plan to address these limitations by convening and supporting a multi-disciplinary panel of practitioners and researchers.

Key Activities

  1. Identifying “headline” changes to human behaviour which, if effected, would have disproportionate impacts on conservation outcomes.
  2. Proposing candidate behavioural interventions which hold promise for delivering these behaviour changes.
  3. Prioritising 10-20 interventions for investigation via a programme of field-based testing.

We have assembled a group of international experts in behaviour change and conservation who will all be involved in each project component, with their input focused on a three-day workshop, and in supporting the preparatory and follow-up work of a dedicated project postdoc.

Conservation Impact

  1. The growth of a global community of practitioners and researchers working at the interface of conservation and behavioural science;
  2. The scaling-up of understanding of the scope and limitations of behaviourally-informed interventions to deliver biodiversity-relevant shifts in human behaviour; and
  3. Enduring changes to some of the key behaviours identified by this project as playing pivotal roles in the processes threatening biodiversity. 

Outputs

  1. A compendium of key intervention points where behaviour changes, if achievable, would have disproportionate impacts on the fate of wild populations and the places they depend on;
  2. A framework for identifying priority interventions which (based largely on their performance in other sectors) appear to offer considerable promise for delivering important behaviour changes, either in isolation or in tandem with regulation, financial incentives or awareness-raising;
  3. A prospectus for future fieldwork testing the effectiveness and generalizability of these interventions, which will form the basis of a grant application for research-linked training (led by TBA); and
  4. One brief and one extended publication, both in high-impact journals, summarizing 1-3, with accompanying media coverage (obtained by working closely with the press offices of partner universities and NGOs). 

CCI partners Involved

Tropical Biology Association is dedicated to building the capacity and expertise of people and institutions to conserve and manage biodiversity in tropical regions. Its network spans 40 countries.
The Department of Geography's research clusters focus on society and environment, development and political ecology, culture and demography, environmental processes, landscape modelling and climate...
The Department of Zoology carries out wide-ranging work in ecology and conservation including conservation science, aquatic ecology, pathogen evolution and evolutionary ecology. Research of the...
TRAFFIC is a global wildlife trade monitoring network that works to ensure that trade in wild plants and animals is not a threat to the conservation of nature. TRAFFIC is a global network, research-...
Cambridge Institute of Public Health (CIPH) is part of the School of Clinical Medicine at the University of Cambridge, and is a world leader in public health. CIPH are a membership organisation whose...
The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) speaks out for birds and wildlife, tackling the problems that threaten our environment. It is the largest wildlife conservation organisation in...