I led a project where our team created an online cyber security training game. We used behavioural science to develop the game. I hired an intern who did a wonderful job building the prototype. Our team then contracted a great agency to work with us to enhance the game. Having an applied sociologist at the helm meant that accessibility and game design was developed with inclusion from inception.Continue reading Applied Sociology and Cyber Security
Applied Sociology of COVID-19
I am cross-posting public health research that I have co-led.
In late 2020, many people were confused about how to correctly self-isolate after getting a COVID-19 test. Our team worked to stop people leaving self-isolation before getting a negative result. We tested a behavioural intervention using
- A multilingual handout, and
- ‘Teach-back’ instructions about self-isolation.
Teach-back is an effective way to improve health comprehension. Clinicians follow a script. They then ask people to repeat key instructions. They also allow time for questions and explanation.
Our intervention and survey were given in four languages (English, Chinese, Arabic and Korean). Our study included 76,000 people in Western Sydney. We analysed 8,000 valid survey responses.
The Northern Beaches outbreak happened during our trial. Our intervention shows how hard clinicians work. They have a strong commitment to trying new solutions.
We reduced self-isolation breaches by 29%. Our research has now been scaled across NSW. Scaling is when a successful intervention is expanded to a broader population.
As part of our scaling, I co-wrote the script for our training video. It explains how clinicians should deliver teach-back. It was interesting to be involved in the filming. I was there to ensure the science was portrayed correctly. Turning research into a visual format is an example of visual sociology. In our case, we used behavioural science to design our handout and video.
Our project shows how
- Applied sociology adds value to multidisciplinary teams, and
- Diverse scientists make a real difference to public health.
My co-leads are a psychologist and economist. We are all from non-English speaking migrant backgrounds. Our multilingual focus is due to our team reflecting on how we can increase equity and diversity in our research. Using multiple languages in our study was very satisfying.
Enjoy reading our work.Continue reading Applied Sociology of COVID-19
Career Progression and Accessibility
Cross-posting research I’ve lead on increasing the promotion and retention of people with disability* within the New South Wales (NSW) public service. We undertook fieldwork to understand the behavioural barriers and solutions. We find that administrative hurdles and inadequate support are negatively impacting the career progression of people with disability. We can improve these outcomes by: 1) Using a feedback loop to increase professional development opportunities for staff with disability; 2) making it easier to implement workplace adjustments; and 3) providing managers with improved resources and training on disability inclusion.Continue reading Career Progression and Accessibility
Applied Sociology of Qualifications
Cross-posting research I’ve led, which examines how to help students complete their qualifications. Our research shows that more apprentices and trainees will complete their training if students are given six behaviourally informed SMS prompts. Messages provided timely and practical advice on workplace rights, and where to seek support if they were struggling. Our results equate to 16% fewer learners dropping out. Our intervention led to a 7:1 return on investment.Continue reading Applied Sociology of Qualifications
Applied Sociology in Rural and Remote Education
This is the second of two posts showing how applied sociology is used in a multi-disciplinary behavioural science project to improve social policy and program delivery.
We scaled our previous trials that used behavioural science to increase pre-service teachers’ uptake of professional placements in rural and remote New South Wales (NSW). We used timely and personalised communications, simplified research on placements, and offered a group placement experience. These interventions led to 55 pre-service teachers completing their placements at geographically isolated schools, with 100% of them saying they would consider taking up long-term employment at a rural or remote school in the future.Continue reading Applied Sociology in Rural and Remote Education
Applied Sociology in Vocational Education
This is part one of two posts showing how applied sociology is used in a multi-disciplinary behavioural science project to improve social policy and program delivery.
Our randomised control trial (RCT) sought to improve outcomes for apprentices and trainees through a behavioural intervention. Learners and their employers were separately visited to discuss contractual responsibilities and to set goals that were meaningful to the learner. Fortnightly emails to employers and text messages (SMS) to learners then reinforced these themes for a period of three months. At the end of this time, separate phone calls to employers and learners were undertaken to check their progress on goals and to work through any workplace issues. We then stopped further communication and analysed completion rates 12-months later. Though our intervention did not lead to a statistically significant result in the retention rate of learners, we suggest early, behaviourally informed support in the first 12 months can help learners persevere toward apprenticeship completion.Continue reading Applied Sociology in Vocational Education
How to Increase Voluntary Participation in Programs Using Behavioural Insights
Reducing reoffending is a state priority in New South Wales. New sentencing reforms will increase referrals to behaviour change programs or other support services for people who are at high-risk of reoffending. Yet non-mandatory programs can often have low participation rates, particularly when programs are new.
We set out to better understand the social context affecting voluntary participation in programs for people at-risk of reoffending. Here’s how we used behavioural science to promote better service delivery for this vulnerable cohort.Continue reading How to Increase Voluntary Participation in Programs Using Behavioural Insights
Applying Behavioural Insights to Emergency Decision-Making
Flood-related fatalities have been an ongoing problem in Australia since the early 1900s. Deaths during floods rank second only to heat waves in natural disaster fatalities. Approximately 159 people died from flooding in Australia during the last 15 years, with half (53%) due to driving through floodwater. NSW, together with QLD, represent 74% of flood fatalities. Rural and regional areas in NSW are especially at-risk.
Driving through flood water is a pressing issue, and has been a persistent problem behaviour that has been tough to shift.
The following reflects how the Behavioural Insights Unit (BIU) worked through this behavioural issue, and brainstormed problems, during a recent masterclass with NSW State Emergency Service (NSW SES).Continue reading Applying Behavioural Insights to Emergency Decision-Making
New Frontiers in Behavioural Insights
I was live tweeting throughout the Behavioural Exchange conference, which was held in Sydney. It brings together policy-makers, practitioners and academics working in behavioural insights – the use of behavioural and social sciences to improve decision-making using evidence-based enhancements to services, programs and policies.
Keynote by Cass Sunstein
Issues with behavioural science ‘nudges‘ (social enticements or environmental cues to optimise desired choices, especially with respect to social policy). To force people to choose when they don’t want to make a decision impacts their dignity. This isn’t the intention of nudging.
Behavioural Science for Education and Vocational Training
Have you ever wondered why people behave in unexpected ways, often against their own interest? This is because many of our social institutions, including the law, education and economy are built around rules that don’t always take into account people’s social context and their motivations when making decisions. Convention in Western societies is that financial incentives and punitive measures (like fines) can incentivise people to do the right thing. Behavioural science research shows this is not always true. In fact, while money and sanctions work in some situations for some groups, most behaviours are not able to be easily changed through cash and penalties. (These can sometimes backfire!)
Behavioural science is the use of behavioural economics, psychology, anthropology, sociology and other social sciences for the purpose of improving behavioural outcomes. Behavioural insights is specifically the application of this science to improve effectiveness for decision-making, public services and policy. Here’s a case study of behavioural insights in action in education and vocational training.
Using fieldwork research and randomised control trials, the Behavioural Insights Unit (BIU) test low-cost behavioural science changes to issues affecting different groups in society.
For example, we know that 48% of apprentices in New South Wales cancel their contracts within the first year, and 77% will cancel within two years. That’s a tremendous personal cost to these students, which also translates to $91 million loss of the state’s economy in cancellations alone, and upwards of $348 million in related revenue. BIU’s research shows apprentices who cancel their employment contracts do so because they often feel they are subjected to tough working conditions for little pay (undertaking menial, repetitive tasks and long hours), receiving little guidance about their progress on the job.Continue reading Behavioural Science for Education and Vocational Training