Theme 2: Communication and behaviour

Many societal issues in life science domains are related to human behaviour, including behaviour related to sustainability, nature, nutrition and health. People don’t engage in pro-environmental behaviours posing a burden on climate and nature, or people have a lifestyle leading to illness. 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 communication to foster change in life sciences domains, such as nutrition and environmental behaviour, health, land use and agricultural practices, often 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 elements of communication and behaviour are part of our work: formation of attitudes and risk perceptions, motivation, planning and goal setting, and self-regulation, habit formation, and behavioural maintenance. We study communication and behaviour 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).

What we aspire

We seek to improve our understanding of how and why people communicate and behave in a certain way and how to influence this effectively. From these insights, we 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.

We publish in journals such as: Journal of Risk Research, Biotechnology Journal, BMC Public Health, Health Communication, Malaria Journal, Water Research and Agricultural Systems.


This Horizon2020 project aims to understand farmers’ risk behaviour and risk management decisions, and to develop and test risk management strategies and decision support tools that farmers can use to cope with increasing economic, environmental and social uncertainties and risks. More specifically, it aims to: (1) understand and elicit farmers’ risk perceptions and preferences; (2) understand farmers’ adaptive behaviour, learning capacity and preferred improvements of current risk management tools; (3) design and analyse improved strategies to deal with extreme weather, with particular emphasis on weather index-based insurances and approaches based on remote sensing and (4) co-create improved risk management tools and map related institutional challenges. This is a collaborative project shared by COM, PAP, BEC and the plant sciences department.

Staff members on this theme


Mulder, B. C., van Belzen, M., Lokhorst, A. M., & Van Woerkum, C. M. J. (2015). Quality assessment of practice nurse communication with type 2 diabetes patients. Patient Education and Counseling, 98, 156-161.

Van Der Heijden, A., Mulder, B. C., Poortvliet, P. M., & Van Vliet, A. J. (2017). Social-cognitive determinants of the tick check: A cross-sectional study on self-protective behavior in combatting Lyme disease. BMC Public Health, 17, 900.

Poortvliet, P. M., Van der Pas, L., Mulder, B. C., & Fogliano, V. (2019). Healthy, but disgusting: An investigation into consumers' willingness to try insect meat. Journal or Economic Entomology, 112, 1005-1010.