Design, mental models and behaviour change

Wednesday 15/06/2011 12:00pm
Location: Brunel Design, Tower A, Room TA049
Speaker: Dan Lockton

Behaviour change, in one form or another, has become a hot topic, from the 'gamification of everything' to the Cabinet Office's 'Nudge Unit'. Design is central to this subject, whether or not politicians realise it: all design influences people's behaviour, whether we do it deliberately or not. We can't avoid it - so we might as well do it intelligently, particularly where we can help align the needs of users and benefits for society.

In this seminar, Dan will talk about some of the insights arising from the Empower project, a collaboration between Brunel Design, More Associates and the University of Warwick. They have been trying to understand how people's behaviour affects patterns of energy use in workplaces, via a range of ethnographic studies and participatory design workshops, in order to develop products that make it easier for both individuals and businesses to change their behaviour and collectively reduce their energy use. Most of what they have found out is about mental models - how people understand the systems around them, and the parts they play in them, and how people within the same place may have different understandings of how things work. The diversity of mental models suggests a range of different design approaches for influencing behaviour, based on how we, as designers, want to treat users: do we want to work with the understanding they have, or do we want to change it?