Harm Veling will join WUR as personal professor

Published on
February 28, 2022

Professor Harm Veling will join the Department of Social Sciences under the Consumption and Healthy Lifestyles chair group on March 1st. His research is aimed at understanding and testing effective behavioral change interventions in the domains of health and environmental behavior.

Changing automatic responses

His research includes both basic psychological experiments and applied studies, and the major discovery is that it is possible to create behavior change without relying on external rewards, punishments, or self-control, but instead by training quick go/no-go decisions to products.

Prof. Veling remarks that “the rationale behind this approach is that people’s behavior is often automatically influenced by rewarding cues in the environment, even when people have intentions to ignore these cues. By changing the automatic responses to these cues, it should become easier for people to steer their behavior in the direction they want.”

Prof. Veling adds, “changing automatic responses through cognitive training addresses theoretical, practical and ethical difficulties with changing people’s behavior. Several training apps based on this work have been developed for different target groups to modify smoking or eating behavior.”

Promoting healthy and environmentally friendly behavior

In Prof. Veling’s view, “the interdisciplinary chair group Consumption and Healthy Lifestyles is the perfect environment for gaining new understanding on the value of this approach by examining both basic and applied questions from various perspectives. Insights from this work on changing automatic responses are expected to lead to new behavior change interventions to promote healthy and environmentally friendly behavior patterns.”

These interventions are developed such that they can potentially reach many people in a low-cost manner (e,g., via Smartphone-apps that we are developing).

Harm Veling (picture).jpg

Harm Veling

After completing his PhD in 2007 in psychology at Radboud University, he has been building a ground breaking research programme on changing automatic responses to rewarding objects such as food products, smoking cues, or smartphone apps, first as a postdoc at Utrecht University (2007-2012), and later as an assistant and associate professor at Radboud University (2012-2022). The position Behavior Change for Health and Sustainability connects directly to existing strategic collaborative partnerships between WUR and Radboud University on health, food and sustainability. “I aim to identify possibilities for collaborative projects to further promote WUR-RU collaboration on these themes.”