Theme 2: Communication and behaviour change

Many societal issues in life science domains are related to human behaviour. Unhealthy and risky behaviours contribute to major health problems such as chronic diseases (e.g., obesity, diabetes) or infectious diseases (e.g., antimicrobial resistance). Or they fail to engage in pro-environmental behaviours posing a burden on climate and nature. Communication can be strategically used to foster individual and collective change in risk perceptions, opinions, motivations, and behaviours in order to address major societal issues in the domain of the life sciences.

What we do

Our chair group develops, evaluates and implements strategic communications to foster change in life sciences domains, such as health, nutrition, environmental behaviour, technological innovations, under conditions of uncertainty and risks. Central to our research is improving the fundamental understanding of the origins of perceptions and behaviours in relation to life science topics, and how these (psychological and communicative) insights can be strategically used to create change. Different stages of behaviour change are acknowledged in our work: 1) formation of attitudes and risk perceptions, 2) motivation, planning and goal setting, and 3) self-regulation, habit formation, and behavioural maintenance. We study change at an individual level (e.g. interpersonal communication through health care providers) as well as at the more collective level (e.g., contextual interventions addressing food environments), including diverse populations (e.g., children, low income, chronically ill patients).  At both levels we are interested in interactions between context (e.g., work, health care, education), technology and behaviour (e.g., communication through virtual agents; serious games, location-based communication technology, nudging).

What we aspire

To improve insight into effective communication strategies that successfully create change while avoiding defensive reactions. These insights aim to extend and improve our toolbox for creating changes for successfully dealing with problems in food, health and the living environment, ultimately contributing to a better quality of life.

Leading staff members

Recent publications

Poortvliet, P. M., Duineveld, M., & Purnhagen, K. (2016). Risk Communication. Performativity in Action: How Risk Communication Interacts in Risk Regulation. In: European Journal of Risk Regulation 7, 213. Online version

Raghoebar, S., van Kleef, E., & de Vet, E. (2017). Self-crafting vegetable snacks: testing the IKEA-effect in children. In: British Food Journal 119 (6), 1301-1312. Online version