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How to change our habits

  • by JW

Crises historically lead to social change but much depends on whether lockdown behaviours stick.


You can, of course, change people’s perceptions – and therefore their behaviour – through a good dose of propaganda, aka ‘fake’ whatever:

Futures Forum: The explosion of online propaganda and the use of our own data to manipulate us

Futures Forum: Big data and big lies…


But there are lot less sinister ways of changing habits, perceptions and behaviours – at the same time as, and probably due to, being transparent and up-front about what is trying to be achieved.


To take one example:

The idea of getting us onto e-bikes and using e-delivery-trikes has been featured on these news pages – in the current context of us not needing to rely on cars to get about or having to rely on local supplies for our essentials:

E-trikes for Sidmouth

The question is whether less reliance on cars and more on local solutions will stay with us once the lock-down is over.

Here’s a study from Switzerland:


E-bike trials’ potential to promote sustained changes in car owners’ mobility habits

Electric bikes (e-bikes) represent a promising energy- and carbon-efficient alternative to cars.

However, as mobility behaviour is highly habitual, convincing people to switch from cars to e-bikes is challenging.

One strategy to accomplish this is the disruption of existing habits—a key idea behind an annual e-bike promotion programme in Switzerland, in which car owners can try out an e-bike for free over a two-week period in exchange for their car keys…

We conclude that an e-bike trial has the potential to break mobility habits and motivate car owners to use more sustainable means of transport.

E-bike trials’ potential to promote sustained changes in car owners mobility habits |


There are several other studies looking at how to change people’s behaviour ‘for the better’ – whether it’s transport, diet or mental health:

Changes in drivers’ perceptions and use of public transport during a freeway closure: effects of temporary structural change on cooperation in a real-life social dilemma |

How to Change the Habits of 107,000 People |

Changing people’s habits is associated with reductions in stress, anxiety and depression levels |


In the context of the current crisis, it takes “ten weeks” for people to change their habits – which is where we might well be going:


Corona confinement and breaking habits

  • Attention is starting to turn to the long-term impact of the coronavirus after the ‘Great Lockdown’
  • Crises historically lead to social change but much depends on whether lockdown behaviours stick
  • Over time, we expect the pandemic to act as a catalyst or accelerator of trends in logistics, technology, globalisation, geopolitics and sustainability
  • Manufacturing may become more localised as newly ‘essential’ supplies are produced nationally
  • The eventual analysis of the pandemic’s management will include many personal, national and global lessons, in case we have to resort to lockdowns again.

Corona confinement and breaking habits |


picture: Change,arrows,clouds,sky,direction – free image from