Human Behaviour Change Conference

In 2017 I was invited to present a talk at the first Human Behaviour Change for Animal Welfare conference. My abstract is below, along with a link to my presentation:

Human Behaviour Change for the Individual: Principles of Ethical Change

For those of us working in practical settings, trying to encourage clients to change their behaviour for the benefit of their animals, it is very easy to become habitual in the way in which we attempt to obtain that change. We tend to develop our "favourite methods" and stick to them, often losing sight of the needs and preferences of the person in question. But different clients call for different approaches and we should keep sight of the individual nature of this work. This may sometimes mean compromising our preferred approaches for the sake of gaining any form of progress for the animal.

Robert Cialdini's classic text of 1984, 'Influence', outlines many different methods, all of which fall broadly into six "Principles of Influence" - reciprocity, commitment and consistency, social proof, authority, liking, scarcity - and are the tried and tested methods of "compliance professionals". Despite being effective, many of these methods feel somewhat manipulative and exploitative to be congruent with work in the welfare sector. The car salesman may be able to sell us an additional insurance policy, but if we feel cheated in our transaction then it is unlikely we will continue a long-term business relationship. Similarly, if we "trick" people into compliance where their animals are concerned, it is likely to be merely a short-term improvement in welfare.

Instead I present a revised approach to Cialdini's work, taking each "Principle of Influence" and narrowing it to a "Principle of Ethical Change". I use a variety of scientific approaches, incorporating ideas from self-determination theory and person-centered counseling, and show that we can utilise long-standing ideas of "compliance" without compromising our ethical values. Thus the principles become: intrinsic motivation, congruence, support network, autonomy and choice, therapeutic relationship, quality of information/self. I explain each of these revised principles, demonstrating their consistency with the original, successful principles. I then use examples from my equine practice to illustrate how we can retain both integrity and long-term effectiveness.