When it comes to social issues concerning the environment and health, it is important to know what motivates citizens. How do they view these issues (perception), and how do they act (behaviour)? The living environment of citizens often differs from that of scientists. Scientists express the risks of an event in terms of 'chance' and 'seriousness'. Citizens experience risks differently in many cases. The feeling of having control over a situation, for example, plays an important role. For example, they estimate the probability of a nuclear incident to be greater than scientists because they have no control over it. Conversely, the chance of a fatal fall at home is perceived by the public as smaller because of the feeling of having control. Moreover, the public's assessment of risks is often influenced by emotions that are difficult to reason but can have a major influence on the acceptance of risks.
With the SPR Strategic Programme RIVM (Strategic Programme RIVM ) theme "Perception and behaviour", RIVM investigates under what conditions actors such as citizens or organisations, are willing and able to bring about changes that make society more sustainable and healthier.
What stimulates healthy and sustainable choices?
People often do not behave the way they would like to or the way they think it is wise to behave. Although no one wants the climate to change, the choice between a car or a bicycle over short distances is often influenced by short-term considerations, such as convenience or a downpour. Intentions, therefore, do not always predict the behaviour that people show. This also applies to organisations.
What influences the making of choices? To stimulate people to show healthy and sustainable behaviour, it is important to have insight into what moves them. For example, what makes certain behaviour easy or attractive, what role does perception play in this, is it important how it is communicated, what sources of information do people trust and do financial considerations and/or regulations play a role?
Combining and using knowledge
Within and outside RIVM, a great deal of knowledge is already available about how behaviour and perceptions interact and what role trust plays in this. However, this knowledge is rather fragmented. To increase its effectiveness, for example, in advising policymakers, RIVM wants to pool this knowledge internally and cooperate with other knowledge institutes such as universities. This also offers the opportunity to deepen knowledge about behaviour and perceptions, with the ultimate aim of making society more sustainable and healthier.
The following research falls under SPR supporting theme "Perception and behaviour". Each research project also falls under other SPR themes, which is mentioned in the survey itself.
More information about this project will follow. This project also included in the SPR Strategic Programme RIVM (Strategic Programme RIVM ) theme “environment and health”.
RIVM National Institute for Public Health and the Environment investigates the ways in which young adults make nutritional choices. The aim is to discover how you can encourage people to choose healthy and sustainable food more often. With this knowledge, we can develop effective measures to switch to a healthier and more sustainable diet.
The focus lies on the consumption of meat because the production of meat contributes to a large extent to the ecological footprint of our food. It produces particulate matter, pathogens, greenhouse gases and the use of pesticides, and requires a disproportionate amount of nutrients. Scientists agree that it would be good for people and the environment to eat less animal and more plant-based food. Many citizens consider sustainability and health important, but still make choices in the supermarkets based on other motives, such as habits, price, social norms, convenience and taste.
SHIFT-DIETS consists of three parts: 1. A literature review and the investigation of existing food consumption data. 2. Collecting new data with the help of a consumer panel and workshops with young adults and experts. 3. Trying out pilot measures to see whether young adults really make different choices when buying food products.
We need more insight into the psychology and behaviour of smokers to understand why people make certain choices. This knowledge can be used to develop lifestyle interventions to help people stop smoking. The Smoke-free Lottery focuses mainly on people with a low level of education.
Smoking causes 20,000 deaths per year in the Netherlands. Half of all smokers die prematurely. Every year, around 40 per cent of smokers try to stop smoking. The majority of these attempts to stop smoking fail (90 per cent). The majority of smokers are low-skilled. We need to find different approaches to reach out and discourage them from smoking. The underlying problems are psychological, and not due to a lack of knowledge or motivation.
We build on the successful RIVMresearch ‘Commitment Lotteries’ (in Dutch: De Beweegloterij). Up to 1 year, commitment lotteries stimulated regular gym visits. In the Smoke-free lottery, we expand this research to smoking and evaluate its effectiveness.
Workers who would like to quit smoking are offered an evidence-based quitting-course. In addition, they commit to their goal by accepting multiple deadlines. At every deadline, a prize is drawn among the participants, and the winner is announced to all. The winners only get to keep their prize if they refrained from smoking that week. Unsuccessful winners inevitably learn what their winnings would have been, had they stuck to their goal. The possibility of regret at this point is designed to help the participants to attain their goal.
From the outset of the project, RIVM National Institute for Public Health and the Environment will work with stakeholders to measure the effectiveness of the smoke-free lottery. The course focuses on people with a lower education and will be developed in collaboration with them.
RIVM National Institute for Public Health and the Environment develops tools to harmonise the information needs of the public and the information of experts about possible risks. This enables RIVM to better respond to questions raised by society. In the case of a research question, regardless of the expertise field, RIVM staff can use an overview of these instruments (toolkit) to find out which research methods, experiences and expertise are available within the RIVM organisation. This can support communication on the subject in question.
Many problems in communicating risks are caused by the different risk perspectives of experts and citizens. It is therefore important to identify the perceptions of a risk by different groups quickly, clearly and unambiguously. The technical approach to risks and risk management only provides an overview of opportunities and consequences. This approach often does not fit in with how citizens think about and deal with risks. Important reasons for this are fear, the extent to which people think they have control over the risk and familiarity with the subject of the risk. A technical approach to risks and communication about these risks can, therefore, cause social unrest and a loss of confidence in science and policy.
RIVM will develop a toolkit consisting of a) an inventory of expertise and knowledge, b) the selected research methods including preconditions and the developed generic part of the research methods, c) the manual when choosing an in-depth research method to gather more information about the risk perception, d) a risk indicator validated with three cases as part of the toolkit, in which the risk assessment and risk perception are put together.
RIVM National Institute for Public Health and the Environment wants to gain insight into the possible and desired roles that we can play to stimulate circular consumption. This requires research into the values, perceptions, considerations and expectations of users. This applies in particular to consumers and suppliers. And what steps are needed to realise the possible and desired roles?
In the transition to a circular economy, RIVM is an independent and reliable knowledge supplier and trusted advisor to governments, businesses and citizens. However, RIVM also wants to be a 'driving force' to ensure that the transition takes place. Which role RIVM can best play in encouraging consumers to make more circular choices, depends on the needs and wishes of the target group and commissioners, RIVM’s possibilities, already existing activities, and other stakeholders in this dossier.
The project starts with an analysis of the term circular consumption, the activities that are already being developed in this area in other organisations, and the need to stimulate circular consumption. This will be done using a literature scan and interviews with experts internally and other stakeholders involved in stimulating circular consumption. Different scenarios are then developed on how circular consumption could develop in the future and what the role of the RIVM could be in this. Based on this exercise, the needs of consumers, and how they could be involved in circular consumption are assessed for two cases. Based on this input, several possible roles for RIVM will be formulated, which are tested at RIVM and commissioners' premises.