Dr. Valerie Curtis

Environmental Health Group, London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine

Dr. Valerie Curtis

Environmental Health Group, London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine

Designing Human Behavior

Our species exhibit a range of problematic behaviours that lead to poor health, social instability and environmental damage. A new breed of behavioural scientists offer to change our behaviour for the better via techniques such as priming and nudging. What can evolutionary biology bring to this nascent discipline? I argue that it brings three things: first it offers a means of analysing the causes of behavioural problems, (often mismatch or learning failure). Second, it explains the origins, purposes and structure of the motives that drive much of our behaviour. Third, in this diverse and competitive field an evolutionary perspective holds out the hope of disciplinary unity, (perhaps, one day). In this talk I show how tackling evolved motives has helped us to change key health-related behaviours in nutrition, hygiene, medical compliance and exercise, using an approach known as Behaviour Centred Design, and speculate as to how such evolutionary approaches could be applied to other behavioural ills.