Public Acceptability of Behaviour Change Interventions: A guest lecture by Prof. Theresa Marteau from University of Cambridge

On Wednesday 25th April, Prof. Theresa Marteau from University of Cambridge, presented current research from the field of psychological and behavioural sciences, in particular, public acceptability of behaviour change interventions.

Title: Public Acceptability of Behaviour Change Interventions

Abstract: Public support of an intervention is a critical consideration for policy-makers considering implementing the intervention through policy. Support for large-scale interventions to change behaviour in health and other contexts is highest for information-based interventions such as public awareness campaigns (of limited effectiveness) and lowest for price-based interventions such as taxes (of higher effectiveness). When a proposed intervention is unpopular, yet has the potential to have an impact – be it on public health, the environment, or other domain – policy makers may seek to increase public support. This paper reviews the evidence for three potentially mutable predictors of public acceptability: perceived effectiveness, perceived fairness and lay theories of human behaviour.

About the speaker

Professor Theresa Marteau is Director of the Behaviour and Health Research Unit in the Clinical School at the University of Cambridge, and Director of Studies in Psychological and Behavioural Sciences at Christ’s College, Cambridge. She studied psychology at the London School of Economics and Political Sciences (LSE) and the University of Oxford.

Her research interests include:

  1. development and evaluation of interventions to change behaviour (principally diet, physical activity, tobacco and alcohol consumption) to improve population health and reduce health inequalities, with a particular focus on targeting non-conscious processes
  2. risk perception and communication particular of biomarker-derived risks, and their weak links with behaviour change
  3. acceptability to publics and policy makers of government intervention to change behaviour.

She is a Fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences and the Academy of Social Sciences. In 2017 she was appointed Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire in recognition of her contribution to Public Health.

Cheap talk and evidence: an experiment: Seminar by Valeria Burdea from University of Nottingham

On Wednesday, 10th January DART hosted PhD Candidate Valeria Burdea from University of Nottingham who presented her current research.

Title: Cheap talk and evidence: an experiment.

Abstract: We investigate the effect of cheap talk on individuals’ perception of partially-informative evidence. To do so we use a sender – receiver game with asymmetric information and bi-dimensional states that can be either good or bad. In this setting, the informed party (the sender) must disclose one of the two state-dimensions with the goal of convincing the receiver that the state is good. We vary whether in addition to the disclosure action, the sender has the possibility to communicate with the receiver by sending her a message regarding the values of the two dimensions. From a normative perspective, in the presence of hard evidence cheap talk should have no bearing on receiver’s decisions. Our results show that cheap talk messages prime more mistakes in the appraisal of the evidence provided, leading to a negative impact on receiver’s payoff. In addition, we find that this effect is mitigated by increasing receiver’s control over her information space. These findings have implications for the design of information distribution processes in persuasion environments such as political campaigns or buyer-seller interactions.

Development and application of behaviour change interventions within organisations: Seminar by Dr Rachel Carey, UCL London

On Wednesday, 6th December we welcomed Dr Racel Carey, UCL London to present research from UCL Centre for Behaviour Change. The focus was on using the Behaviour Change Wheel as a framework for intervention design, as well as discussing the ‘real-world’ applications of this approach.

Title: The Behaviour Change Wheel: a framework for intervention design with ‘real-world’ applications.

Abstract: Behaviour change is central to many global societal challenges. Behaviour change interventions have the potential to address these challenges, but many are developed without a solid theoretical basis, meaning that the accumulation of knowledge about ‘what works’ has been relatively slow. The science of behaviour change applies theory, methods, and evidence about behaviour change to the development of interventions that can be applied to a wide range of areas, including health and healthcare, business, policy, cybersecurity, transport, and the environment. This talk will explore how theories and techniques from behaviour change science, including the Behaviour Change Wheel framework, can be applied in practice – both within and outside of research settings.

Advances in Eye-tracking Research for Behavioural Decision-Making: Seminar by Prof. Jacob Lund Orquin

On Wednesday, 15th November @ 11am – 12, DART will be welcoming Prof. Jacob Lund Orquin to present his current research in the field of eye tracking in behavioural decision making. If you wish to attend please register your attendance on Eventbrite, places are limited.

Title: Implicit Statistical Learning in Real-World Environments Leads to Ecologically Rational Decision Making

Abstract: Ecological rationality results from matching decision strategies to appropriate environmental structures, but how does the matching happen? We propose that people learn the statistical structure of the environment through observation and use this learned structure to guide ecologically rational behavior. We tested this hypothesis in the context of organic foods. In Study 1, we found that products from healthful food categories are more likely to be organic than products from nonhealthful food categories. In Study 2, we found that consumers’ perceptions of the healthfulness and prevalence of organic products in many food categories are accurate. Finally, in Study 3, we found that people perceive organic products as more healthful than nonorganic products when the statistical structure justifies this inference. Our findings suggest that people believe organic foods are more healthful than nonorganic foods and use an organic-food cue to guide their behavior because organic foods are, on average, 30% more healthful.

Transactional cognition: The constitutive yet invisible role of things in human cognitive performance

DART member Gaelle will be presenting at LDJM Seminars, UCL Wednesday, October 11th 2017 from 5pm


Wednesday 11th Oct


LDJM, Univerisity College London


Dr Gaëlle Vallée-Tourangeau will be presenting at 11:00am

Transactional cognition: The constitutive yet invisible role of things in human cognitive performance.


Higher cognition involved in reasoning, problem-solving, and decision-making is admittedly conceived as a process of acquiring information and understanding through mental representation and mental computation. Some have conceded cognition does not take place in a vacuum: it can also be shaped by our bodily sensations and by our immediate environment. This prompted modified conceptions of cognition tagged “embodied” or “situated”. Radicals have philosophised that cognition is a-representational and a-computational: it would only emerge from action-environment dynamics. While these ideas have been around for well over two decades, they have had minimal impact on mainstream cognitive psychology. In this talk, I will present data on Bayesian reasoning which challenges both the traditional, modified and the radical conception of cognition and discuss a fourth avenue: cognition as emerging through time and space from a transactional process meshing mental and physical representations, computations, as well as actions on things.


For further information about this event please visit website.

Seminar Series: Behavioural economics, Dr Karen Hauge

On Wednesday, 4th October @ 11am – 12, DART will be welcoming Dr. Karen Hauge to present her current research in the field of behavioural economics. Below is a snippet of her presentation, if you wish to attend please contact us directly for further details, places are limited.

Title: The Good, the Bad, and the Conditional: Sorting and Dynamics in a Public Good Game with Endogenous Group Formation

Authors: Kjell Arne Brekke, Karen Evelyn Hauge, Jo Thori Lind and Karine Nyborg

Abstract: Previous research has shown that beneficiary commitments can serve as a screening device in public good games (Brekke et al., 2011), enabling cooperative subjects to endogenously self-select into groups which manage to sustain cooperation over time.

We present a public good game experiment in which subjects choose between two group types: in blue groups, subjects receive a fixed extra payoff; in red groups, this extra payoff is donated, instead, to the Red Cross. We use the strategy method to elicit the conditional contribution preferences of the subjects; altruist, free-rider, conditional cooperator or other. In the current paper we investigate further why red groups manage to sustain cooperation over time while blue groups do not. Is it because red groups start off at higher contribution levels, or do subjects who select into blue groups condition their contributions more strongly on the behavior of other group members than subjects who select into red groups?

The preliminary results show that subjects who later choose red groups contribute higher amounts in the first one shot public good game in comparison to subjects who later choose blue groups. We find (as in Fischbacher et al. (2001)) that a small group of subjects can be classified as altruists and a small group as free-riders, while the largest group are conditional cooperators. While the altruists select into red groups, the free-riders select into blue groups. The most part of the selection is driven by a small number of subjects, but this selection is important for the dynamics of play.


BREKKE, K. A., HAUGE, K. E., LIND, J. T. & NYBORG, K. 2011. Playing with the good guys. A public good game with endogenous group formation. Journal of Public Economics, 95, 1111-1118.

FISCHBACHER, U., G\”{A}CHTER, S. & FEHR, E. 2001. Are people conditionally cooperative? Evidence from a public goods experiment. Economic Letters, 71, 397-404.


Motors of vaccination decisions and vaccination advocacy

This project aims to better understand the levels of autonomous drive towards vaccination and vaccination advocacy among health care professionals. We are approaching the problem of vaccine hesitancy from a new angle. Rather than assuming that people getting vaccinated results from a rational decision-making process, we want to understand motivation – why would someone want (or not want) to get vaccinated?

This project has received funding from Sanofi-Pasteur and from Kingston University.

We are currently developing a toolkit to support healthcare employers wishing to reduce vaccine hesitancy and promote vaccination advocacy among their staff. If you would like to learn more, join the vaccination @ work network and a member of DART will be in touch!

In recent years, public opinion shifted from a widespread acceptance of vaccination to an increase in concern for vaccine safety, fuelled by media coverage of alleged vaccination-related risks and the growing influence of anti-vaccine movements.

Such concerns are often based on erroneous or misleading information and vaccination advocates naturally sought to rectify incorrect beliefs by disseminating scientific evidence to the contrary, confident that this would suffice to “immunize” individuals against anti-vaccination arguments.

However, such educative interventions, whether through formal training or informal conversations often seem to further antagonize rather than rally those who already doubt vaccination, leaving advocates feeling at loss for ways to promote the benefits of vaccination.

An alternative perspective consists in considering vaccination as a motivated decision. To further explore this possibility, we have developed two scales: the MoVac© and the MovAd© scales, which aim to measure individual differences in dimensions related to intrinsic motivation to engage in a behaviour.

We have collected data from several populations, including the general public, Sanofi-Pasteur employees, NHS employees at Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust (in collaboration with Imperial College London), and GPs in Romania (in collaboration with the Romanian Pro Immunization Association (API) and The Romanian National Society of Family Doctors, SNMF)

Research team

Prof Gaëlle Vallée-Tourangeau (PI)
Prof Nick Sevdalis
Prof Suzanne Suggs
Prof Christine Norton
Dr Angus Thomson
Dr Ana Wheelock
Dr Marianne Promberger
Dr Miroslav Sirota
Ms Karis Moon (PhD researcher)

Research outputs

Thomson, A., Vallée-Tourangeau, G., & Suggs, L. S. (2018). Strategies to increase vaccine acceptance and uptake: From behavioral insights to context-specific, culturally-appropriate, evidence-based communications and interventions. Vaccine, 36(44), 6457–6458.
Vallée-Tourangeau, G., Promberger, M., Moon, K., Wheelock, A., Sirota, M., Norton, C., & Sevdalis, N. (2017). Motors of influenza vaccination uptake and vaccination advocacy in healthcare workers: Development and validation of two short scales. Vaccine.

Kassianos, G., Kuchar, E., Nitsch-Osuch, A., Kyncl, J., Galev, A., Humolli, I., … Vallée-Tourangeau, G. (2018). Motors of influenza vaccination uptake and vaccination advocacy in healthcare workers: A comparative study in six European countries. Vaccine.

Thomson, A., Robinson, K., & Vallée-Tourangeau, G. (2015). The 5As: A practical taxonomy for the determinants of vaccine uptake. Vaccine.

Intuition and the conjunction fallacy

This research is funded by the Leverhulme Trust and aims to explore the circumstances in which faster thinking is more logical than slower deliberative thinking, using the innovative methodology initially reported in Villejoubert (2009). It involves a series of six experimental studies designed to provide evidence that logical considerations do not always require a higher motivation to ‘think harder’, and that, contrary to accepted wisdom, increasing reliance on intuitive thinking or decreasing cognitive resources may in fact serve to improve judgments. This work has the potential to challenge dominant theoretical accounts and current educational strategies for teaching probabilistic reasoning.

As a consequence of the complexity and inherent unpredictability of the world in which they live, humans naturally seek to understand and manage the uncertainty of present and future outcomes. Yet, reasoning under uncertainty exhibits a number of biases and shortcomings (e.g., Villejoubert & Mandel, 2002).The conjunction fallacy is a well-researched example of such suboptimal reasoning. Tversky and Kahneman (1983) illustrated this fallacy with the Linda task, which introduces ‘Linda’ as a single 31 year-old woman, outspoken and very bright, who majored in philosophy, is deeply concerned with issues of discrimination and social justice, and has participated in anti-nuclear demonstrations.

After reading this short description, individuals tend to believe, against the tenets of logic, that a conjunction of two events (e.g., ‘Linda is a feminist and a bank teller’) is more likely to be true than one of the conjunctive events (e.g., ‘Linda is a bank teller’). It is commonly argued that such errors occur because people are not accustomed to engage in effortful and time-consuming analysis but, instead, are often satisfied by plausible judgements arising from rapid intuitive thinking (Kahneman, 2003).

This accepted wisdom presupposes that inadequate judgements occur through lack of motivation or cognitive capacity for engaging in effortful thinking (e.g., Stanovich & West, 2000). However, a recently developed research methodology has produced evidence that challenges this predominant view (Villejoubert, 2009). This innovative experimental procedure permits the examination of the relative impact of heuristic and logical considerations on judgements. Instead of asking participants to make separate evaluations of the probability of a conjunct and the probability of a single event, this procedure asks them to judge whether statements comparing both type of probabilities are correct or incorrect.

These statements vary in terms of their logicality (logical vs. illogical) and their compatibility with the representativeness heuristic (representative vs. unrepresentative). To illustrate, Figure 1 shows results for representative and logical statements (e.g., ‘the fact that Linda is a feminist is more likely than the fact that she is a feminist and a bank teller’) and representative but illogical ones (e.g., ‘the fact that Linda is a feminist and a bank-teller is more likely than the fact that she is a bank teller’).

Participants in Villejoubert’s (2009) study were more likely to accept representative statements but they were also significantly less likely to accept illogical ones. Moreover, they consistently took longer before accepting a statement when heuristic and logical considerations were in conflict, even under time pressure (< 10s; see acceptance times for representative but illogical statements in Fig. 1).

These findings highlight two important features of people’s reasoning: (1) the increase in acceptance time under conflicting situations suggests that people routinely engage in effortful processing and (2) the recurrence of this finding under time pressure suggests that the conflict between heuristic and logical considerations was easily detected.

One possible account of these data would be that intuitive thinking might in fact point to the logical answer first. When this answer conflicts with representativeness, people then engage in effortful and deliberative thinking to resolve the conflict. This hypothesis goes against the traditional two-system theoretical account (e.g., Kahneman, 2003), which stipulates that under time pressure, thinking should be more heuristic and less rational. In contrast, Villejoubert’s (2009) findings suggest that quick thinking can be logical while effortful thinking can be biased by non-logical heuristics.The goal of this research project is therefore to explore more systematically the circumstances in which faster thinking is more logical than slower deliberative thinking, using the innovative methodology initially reported in Villejoubert (2009).


Cacioppo, J. T., Petty, R. E., & Kao, C. F. (1984). The efficient assessment of need for cognition. Journal of
Personality Assessment, 48, 306-307.

De Neys, W. (2006). Dual processing in reasoning: Two systems but one reasoner. Psychological Science, 17, 428-433.

Kahneman, D. (2003). A perspective on judgement and choice: Mapping bounded rationality. American Psychologist, 58, 697-720.

Masicampo, E., & Baumeister, R. F. (2008). Toward a physiology of dual-process reasoning and judgement: Lemonade, willpower, and expensive rule-based analysis. Psychological Science, 19, 255-260.

Stanovich, K. E., & West, R. F. (2000). Individual differences in reasoning: Implications for the rationality debate. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 23, 645-726.

Tversky, A., & Kahneman, D. (1983). Extensional versus intuitive reasoning: The conjunction fallacy in
probability judgement. Psychological Review, 90, 293-315.

Villejoubert, G. (2009). Are representativeness judgements automatic and rapid? The effect of time pressure on the conjunction fallacy. In N. Taatgen, H. van Rijn, L. Schomaker and J. Nerbonne
(Eds.), Proceedings of the 30th Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society (pp. 2980-2985).
Austin, TX: Cognitive Science Society. Retrieved from

Villejoubert, G., & Mandel, D. R. (2002). The inverse fallacy: An account of deviations from Bayes’s theorem and the additivity principle. Memory & Cognition, 30, 171-178.


Politeness, severity and risk communication

This research project explores the effect of conviction severity and conviction base rate on numerical estimates of the uncertainty conveyed by verbal probability phrases.

Research on linguistic probabilities has shown that phrases such as possible can be attributed higher numerical estimates in severe or high base rate events. Research has also built on the pragmatic account of linguistic probabilities, which shows that when verbal probability expressions are interpreted as politeness devices, events are estimated as more likely to occur and as denoting higher risks.

This research project aims to expand upon previous findings in a new area of application; namely the communication of uncertainty in a legal setting. It examines how conviction severity and conviction base rates may influence the interpretation of verbal probability phrases (as a risk communication or a face-management linguistic device) and assessed the degree to which the type of linguistic interpretation favored might influence the perceived likelihood of a suspect’s guilt and of his conviction.

So far, our findings show that whereas an event base rate might have a strong influence on the numerical and linguistic interpretation of verbal probability phrases such as “it is possible that…”, evidence for the impact of severity seems to depend on base-rates.


Bonnefon, J. F., & Villejoubert, G. (2006). Tactful, or doubtful? Expectations of politeness explain the severity bias in the interpretation of probability phrases. Psychological Science, 17, 747-751. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-9280.2006.01776.x



Ms Egle Butt (PI)
Prof Gaëlle Vallée-Tourangeau
Dr Marie Juanchich
Dr Miroslav Sirota


Butt, E., Sirota, M., Juanchich, M., & Vallée-Tourangeau, G. (2016, June). When Are Severe Outcomes More Probable? – Role of Base Rate. Paper presented at the FUR 2016 Conference, Warwick, United Kingdom.

Butt, E., Vallée-Tourangeau, G., Juanchich, M., & Sirota, M. (2015, August). Communicating probability of environmental risk: Accounting for face-threatening contexts. Paper presented at the 25th Subjective Probability, Utility and Decision Making Conference, Budapest, Hungary.

Butt, E., Villejoubert, G., Juanchich, M., & Vallée-Tourangeau, F. (2013, August). The effect of conviction severity and base-rate in interpreting linguistic probability expressions. Paper presented at the 24th Subjective Probability, Utility and Decision Making Conference, Barcelona, Spain.

The effect of interactivity and transfer in insight problem solving

This research aims to investigate whether manipulating interactivity levels would have an effect on performance in an insight problem.

The information-processing model has traditionally described problem solving as an activity where progressive moves are made towards a solution by journeying through a problem space (Newell & Simon, 1972). More recently, Ohlsson (2011) suggested that working memory played a key role in this activity, assuming people solve problems by mentally restructuring the problem information. By contrast, the theoretical framework provided by distributed cognition suggests a complex co-occurrence between the problem solvers internal cognitive processes and their immediate environment (Kirsh, 2009). Cognition may be distributed across three dimensions: across the mind and its physical environment, through time where earlier events alter later events, and across members of social groups (Hollan, Hutchins & Kirsh, 2000).

When a problem solver is presented with a physical representation of a task, interacting with a physical representation, even with arbitrary moves, may offer cues to new strategies, enable better planning and increase efficiency in progressing towards a goal. Accordingly, when problem solvers are able to interact and restructure their environment, their ability to solve problems should be enhanced. Time distribution is also important and may impact upon problem solving performance, where previously learnt solutions may foster directed behavior towards a goal (e.g., Fioratou, Flin & Galvin, 2010).

So far, we found that increasing the interactivity of problem solvers’ immediate environment can facilitate insight as did incubation. Perhaps surprisingly, the highest proportion of insightful answers was observed when interactivity levels increased after incubation. This shows that insight depends not only on problem solvers’ internal resources but also on the features of the immediate environment, as anticipated by the distributed cognition framework.


Fioratou, E., Flin, R., & Glavin. (2010). No simple fix for fixation errors: Cognitive processes and their clinical applications. Journal of the Associations of Anaesthetists of Great Britain and Ireland, 65, 61-69.

Hollan, J., Hutchins, E., & Kirsh, D. (2000). Distributed cognition: Toward a new foundation for human-computer interaction research. ACM Transactions on Computer-Human Interactions, 7(2), 174-196.

Kirsh, D. (2009). Interaction, external representation and sense making. In N. A. Taatgen, & H. v. Rijn (Ed.), Proceedings of the Thirty First Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society (pp. 1103-1108). Austin, TX: Cognitive Science Society.

Newell, A., & Simon, H. A. (1972). Human problem solving. Engelwood Ciffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.
Ohlsson, S. (2011). Deep learning: How the mind overrides experience. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Weller, A., Villejoubert, G., & Vallée-Tourangeau, F. (2011). Interactive Insight Problem Solving. Thinking & Reasoning, 17, 424–439. doi:10.1080/13546783.2011.629081