Feed the Future
This project is part of the U.S. Government's global hunger and food security initiative.

DISCUSSION: How Does Emotion Affect Behavior Change?

Earlier this year, I attended a session at the TOPS/FSN Network Knowledge Sharing Meeting on “Concept Testing for Social Behavior Change (SBC)”. I had very little idea about what the session would cover, but it sounded intriguing. The presenters explained the principle of concept testing, a methodology used primarily in advertising and marketing to test different products before they go on the market. One key principle of concept testing is that emotion plays a huge part in human behavior, and any behavior change requires that there is an “emotional hook” attached to it.

The presenters discussed the experience of the Alive & Thrive project, which had put this theory into practice when designing communication and educational materials around nutrition behavior change in Bangladesh. Through concept testing, they identified the right balance of messages that ultimately resulted in long-lasting behavior change in regards to child feeding practices and sanitation behaviors in beneficiaries.

As a knowledge management professional, this presentation got me thinking about the role that emotion plays in sharing out knowledge around promising practices and interventions. Too often, I think we present out “just the facts” in our program briefs and communication materials and neglect that emotional hook that initially draws a person in to ultimately result in changed behavior.

I’m interested to hear from the Agrilinks community:

  • How have you have incorporated emotional messaging into your programs to promote any sort of behavior change with your desired beneficiaries or audience?
  • Do you agree that emotion needs to be a part of behavior change communication?
  • What role does local culture play in emotional hooks?