Living lab on behavioural change

The behavioural change of consumers or producers is the key to many substantial issues facing the world: from healthy, sufficient food to climate change. The WUR living lab on behavioural change invests in the development of new ways to understand and change behaviour.

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People do not always make rational economic decisions. Social standards and emotions also play a role in behaviour. For instance, if consumers see that others are buying healthier items, they will do it as well. Another example: farmers in developing countries will avoid new technologies if they are unable to assess the associated risks.

Behavioural change plays an important role in the major challenges the world is facing, such as achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.
Ruerd Ruben, research coordinator at Wageningen Economic Research

Behaviour is key

This is why Wageningen Economic Research invests in the development of new economic methods to research behavioural responses that can add to existing economic models. Behaviour may not always be rational, but that does not mean that we are unable to understand or predict it. Using new insights into behaviour, businesses can operate more efficiently and governments can create smarter, more targeted policies. Ruben: 'A great many problems can be addressed much more efficiently by influencing behaviour rather than by imposing rules or changing prices.' Economic incentives, such as forcing environmentally friendly behaviour by imposing greater penalties for polluting the environment, do not always work.

Living lab

The behavioural economists at Wageningen University & Research (WUR) have joined forces in the WUR living lab on behavioural change. Researchers in this network receive additional time to deepen their knowledge and exchange experiences. This is because the driving forces behind human behaviour are the same, regardless of whether it involves school children in South Africa or fishermen at sea. Together, the researchers are developing new methods and products for clients, e.g. a game in which the impact of an intervention involving consumers, producers, and retail can be simulated. WUR living lab combines applied and more fundamental knowledge on behavioural economics that is available at WUR.

A holistic view

'Researchers in the WUR living lab, progressively modify the research if the insights obtained require it or if the client poses new questions', says Ruerd Ruben. Researchers allow themselves to be influenced by insights from different disciplines and experiences in practice. At the same time, they work on short- and long-term solutions. 'We get the chance to flesh out promising ideas and innovations', adds Marleen Onwezen, a researcher of consumer behaviour.

By collaborating, we are able to approach more complex problems with a more holistic view of the entire chain, from production to consumption. This allows us to better understand the level at which you need to intervene in order to change behaviour.
Marleen Onwezen, researcher of consumer behaviour

Work with us on behavioural change: what Wageningen University & Research offers

  • Application-oriented and field-based research: insights into consumer behaviour
  • Fundamental research: what are the social processes that influence behavioural change
  • Courses: bachelors and masters in the field of (consumer) behaviour and behavioural change

Recent research

Highlighted news about behavioural change