Context to Influence Behaviour

It has long been recognised that influencing behaviour is central to key policy changes. This isn’t just the case in health, it is also recognised in finance and even climate change. Typically – in economics and psychology – attempts to change behaviour have been based on influencing the way people think, through information and incentives (cognitive model).

Ivo Vlaev, recently appointed Professor of Behavioural Science at Warwick Business School, has developed the mnemonic, MINDSPACE to ‘change contexts’ by influencing the environments in which people act (context model).

MINDSPACE gathers together the nine most robust effects that influence behaviour:

Messenger – who communicates the information.
Incentives – shaped by predictable mental shortcuts, e.g. avoiding loss.
Norms – what others do.
Defaults – going with the pre-set options.
Salience – what is novel and relevant to us.
Priming – sub-conscious cues.
Affect – emotional associations.
Commitments – consistency with public promise, and reciprocation.
Ego – what makes us feel better about ourselves.

Policy-makers can put MINDSPACE into practice following a simple, structured process, extending and enhancing traditional ways of influencing behaviour.

Policies that change the context and ‘nudge’ people in a particular directions have captured the imagination of academics and policy-makers. Indeed MINDSPACE is the topic of both an article in the Journal of Economic Psychology [1] and a report to the Cabinet Office.[2]

 –Richard Lilford, Director CLAHRC WM


  1. Dolan P, Hallsworth M, Halpern D, King D, Metcalfe R, Vlaev I. Influencing behaviour: the mindspace way. J Econ Psychol. 2012; 33: 264-77.
  2. Dolan P, Hallsworth M, Halpern D, King D, Vlaev I. MINDSPACE: Influencing behaviour through public policy.  London, UK: Institute for Government. 2010.

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