- freely available
Animals 2019, 9(8), 555; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani9080555
2. Issues around Designing Interventions for Human Behaviour Change
3. Understanding Human Behaviour
- Temporal processes that describe behaviour and change over time, for example the Transtheoretical Stages of Change Model ;
- How people learn, which is considered to be fundamental to the process of change, for example Self-Regulated Learning ;
- Social change through theories of diffusion and social capital, for example Rogers Diffusion of Innovations , which describes the process of adoption of innovation using interactions within social networks.
- Focus on human behaviour—identify and select behaviours that will produce effective outcomes;
- Know your audience—understand the causes of behaviour and variation in causes across target populations;
- Match interventions to the primary cause of behaviour;
- Use science-based evaluation to determine what works and why.
4. Development of Interventions
4.1. Principle 1: Focus on Human Behaviour
- Improvement in the welfare of these cats;
- A reduction in the number of these cats;
- Protection of wildlife and environmental assets from predation by these cats;
- Protection of wildlife, livestock and humans from diseases and parasites that may be transmitted by these cats.
- Effectiveness of the behaviour in bringing about positive outcomes;
- Likelihood that the behaviour will actually be adopted;
- Proportion of the target population already engaged in the behaviour (penetration).
4.2. Principle 2: Know Your Audience
- Capability. An individual’s physical and psychological capacity to engage in the behaviour of interest. COM-B distinguishes between two types of capability. Physical capability refers to the extent to which an individual can engage in the behaviour. For example, does an individual have the physical ability to install a cat-proof fence? Psychological capability refers to the capacity to engage in the necessary mental activities (risk assessments, mental simulation of possible outcomes, decision making, etc.) to select and implement an appropriate course of action.
- Opportunity. These are factors external to the individual that prompt or enable the behaviour to occur. COM-B distinguishes between two types of opportunity. Physical opportunity refers to situational factors such as having relevant equipment or supplies readily available that are needed to address the problem. It can be difficult to set a trap if a trap, or the resources to build a trap, are not available. Social opportunity refers to cultural or community values and norms that may make engaging in recommended best practices more or less likely. For example, if most cat owners within a neighbourhood are keeping their cats in at night, this creates a social norm that increases that likelihood that others in the neighbourhood will also engage in this practice.
- Motivation. These are factors internal to the individual that energise or direct behaviour. COM-B distinguishes between two types of motivational factors . Reflective motivation consists of conscious deliberation and reasoning, and often involves evaluating threats, planning, goal setting, and mentally simulating possible outcomes associated with various types of actions. For example, prior to deciding to control feral cats, a land manager may make a list of the costs and benefits of engaging and not engaging in the various control activities and select the option that he or she believes is most likely to produce the most positive outcome. Automatic motivation refers to mental processes that operate largely outside conscious control of the individual, including habits, impulses and emotionally driven behaviour. For example, a cat owner’s ‘decision’ to keep their cat contained may be emotionally based after witnessing the injuries suffered by their cat after being hit by a car.
- How to best optimise interventions for each audience using their unique COM-B profiles. People who do not have the capability to perform a desired behaviour will require a different intervention to those who are capable but need the motivation to act.
- How to determine who should be targeted. To maximise on-the-ground impact it may be better initially to target a large group of disengaged but receptive audience members, rather than focusing on a smaller group who are not interested, and who would require more time and money to engage.
- How to ensure the audiences engage with the intervention. Different audience segments may have their own unique preferences for where they obtain information, with some using social media such as Facebook, others preferring traditional print media, and others relying on face-to-face interactions.
- How to select the best messengers with the relevant expertise, values and personal experiences needed to build and maintain trust with their audiences. Not all audiences will perceive certain communicators as credible and trustworthy.
4.3. Principle 3: Match Interventions to the Primary Causes of Behaviour
- Affordability—can the intervention be delivered within an acceptable budget?
- Practicality—can the intervention be delivered effectively as designed in a real-world context?
- Effectiveness—what impact will the intervention have in relation to the desired outcomes in a real-world context? And is the expected impact worth the cost required to achieve it?
- Acceptability—is the intervention judged to be appropriate by key stakeholders?
- Side-effects—are there likely any unwanted side-effects or unintended consequences? These are sometimes difficult to predict, but definitely worth considering.
- Equity—does the intervention produce disparities between different sectors of society?
4.4. Principle 4: Use a Science-Based Evaluation to Determine What Works and Why
- Always include a control group. A minimum requirement is the inclusion of a control group, i.e., a group of people that does not experience the intervention. Without a control group, it is impossible to know whether a change in behaviour or outcomes is due to the intervention or an infinite number of other uncontrolled factors, such as an increase in public interest driven by media reports, or an overall increase in the targeted issue.
- Whenever possible, use random assignment. Randomised controlled trials represent the gold standard for evaluating a treatment or project across many scientific disciplines. Random allocation to experimental conditions removes any bias and allows resulting observed differences between the treatment and control groups to be attributable to the intervention, and not pre-existing group differences or other uncontrolled factors.
- When random assignment is not possible, use quasi-experimental designs. Unfortunately, working with people in ‘real-world’ situations does not always allow for random assignment of specific treatment groups. Quasi-experimental design, which compares naturally occurring or self-selected groups, is the next preferred option . For example, if you launch an intervention promoting the reporting of free-roaming cats in a community, you could compare the reporting practices between those who are aware of the intervention and those who were not. Compared to a randomised control experiment, quasi-experimental designs will not give you the same level of confidence that your intervention was the main factor driving the behaviour change.
- Use statistical tests to evaluate effects. The use of statistical tests increases the certainty that the measured differences between treatments are ‘real’ and meaningful, and not simply due to chance. For example, what if you found that your intervention resulted in a 10% increase in participation but, over the same time, there was a 5% increase in the control group? Has your intervention produced a meaningful difference, or was it simply due to chance variation? Without statistical tests there would be no reliable way of knowing. If you are unfamiliar with the many tests and software options, consultations with a qualified statistician is a worthwhile endeavour.
- Measure actual behaviour change. In any intervention evaluation plan, it is important to measure actual behaviour change. Showing that an intervention has increased awareness, or changed attitudes, or even the intention to act, can all be important discoveries. But changes in awareness, attitudes and intentions do not always translate into behaviour change . Thus, behaviours need to be measured directly. This may not be an easy thing to do when working with people in ‘real-world’ situations, but, where possible, direct observations of desired behaviours are preferable over self-reported behaviour. People’s actions do not always match their claims .
- Link behaviour change to on-ground impacts. Another important aspect of an evaluation plan is to link behaviour change back to the on-ground impacts and management outcomes. It is often assumed that getting people to adopt recommended management practices or new technologies will automatically deliver positive outcomes such as increased biodiversity. These assumptions should be assessed. If an expected increase in local wildlife following a cat management program does not occur, the original assumption linking cat predation to wildlife survival may be incorrect. Or perhaps other unanticipated factors, such as environmental degradation or fox predation, may be at play. These need to be investigated and clarified.
- Evaluate the cost-effectiveness of interventions. Resources are almost always limiting in any cat management program. So not only is it important to measure success with behaviour change and outcome achievement, it is also important to calculate the cost-effectiveness, that is, the overall benefit per dollar spent. Cost-effectiveness calculations can help you choose between competing strategies. If two strategies are as effective as one another, but one costs substantially less, it makes sense to select the cheaper option for future implementation.
5. Summary and Conclusions
- Communication and consultation with all stakeholders at all stages of the process is essential to achieving effective, equitable and ethically acceptable outcomes.
- An emphasis on defining the issue in behavioural terms and understanding the relevant behaviours is needed first. The design process should not start with a strategy and work backwards.
- Determinants of target audience behaviours should be identified from a range of sources including direct observations, interviews, surveys and focus groups.
- Because many free-roaming cat management programs require collective support and action from a range of community members from various backgrounds, with varying capabilities, opportunities and motivations, audience segmentation (the identification of audience subgroups that have similar values, interests, needs and behaviour patterns) is a beneficial technique to apply.
- Chosen intervention strategies must match the primary causes of behaviour. Do not be tempted to implement something following the “it seemed like a good idea at the time” principle .
- Interventions need to be evaluated. Changes in target audience behaviour, not just outputs, should be assessed before and after implementation, and ‘treatment’ groups should be compared to a control group not exposed to the intervention. The sharing of these results would accelerate learning about best methods for engaging and motivating those involved in free-roaming cat management.
Conflicts of Interest
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|De-sexing||cat owner||as early as possible||at local vet||once only|
|Microchipping||cat owner||when first adopted/purchased||at local vet||once only|
|Visual identification||cat owner||as early as possible||placed on cat||all the time cat the is outside|
|Registration||cat owner||when first adopted/purchased||at office/online||every year/or when details change|
|Night curfew||cat owner||at night||at home||every night|
|24-h containment||cat owner||all the time||at home||all the time|
|Limit no. of cats per household||cat owner||all the time||at home||all the time|
|Behaviour||Effectiveness||Likelihood of Adoption (0–4)||Penetration (0–1)||Weighted Score||Rank|
|24 h contain||8.10||1.4||0.13||9.87||1|
|Visual identification||0.82||3.6 1||0.50||1.48||4|
|Limit cat no.||0.79||3.4||0.40||1.42||5|
|Persuasion||Motivation||Messages that promote the benefits of a particular cat management behaviour or the negative implications of not performing the behaviour|
|Provision of information so that comparison can be made for participating or not participating|
|Messages framed in local context and delivered by locals|
|Incentives||Motivation||Positive financial or social reward for participating in a particular action, e.g., reduced registration for de-sexed cats|
|Coercion||Motivation||Fines or social punishment for not participating in desired behaviour, or participating in a non-desired behaviour|
|Restriction||Opportunity||Regulations to restrict a behaviour’s performance, e.g., limiting the number of cats a household can have|
|Modelling||Motivation||Setting up a ‘demonstration site’ at a well-known location, or with an inspirational local, e.g., to display how they contain their cat|
|Ensuring local supply of resources such as traps that can be loaned to so they do not have to be purchased, and conducting training in how to use them proficiently|
|Environmental re-structuring||Opportunity||Promoting a particular species as a pest in an area to highlight it as a social problem in need of a solution|
|Motivation||Increasing access to services by offering more locations or extended opening hours|
|Producing written material or video clips to disseminate and illustrate information on cat management techniques|
|Training||Capability||Running a workshop to provide practical and technical instructions on how to build a cat-exclusion fence|
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