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The nine 'nudge' concepts at the heart of StepJockey

StepJockey’s origins lie firmly in behavioural economics theory. It’s fair to say that health behaviour change is at the heart of everything we do.

The fundamentals of behavioural economics (PDF, 297kb) have been laid out in a joint report between the UK government Cabinet Office and the independent thinktank The Institute For Government. Their report summarised the key influences on people’s behaviour that can be used to evoke change. It all boils down to a simple mnemonic – MINDSPACE – which stands for:

  • Messenger

  • Incentives

  • Norms

  • Defaults

  • Salience

  • Priming

  • Affect

  • Commitment

  • Ego

We've taken this theory and have underpinned it with an extensive research programme using a rigorously evidence-based approach.

We analysed behavioural and attitudinal research to explain how the idea worked, and carried out 'real life' experiments to provide accurate and robust data on the impact StepJockey has on people.

How our research findings align with behavioural economics theory

StepJockey trials involved more than 250,000 stair/lift journeys. The findings accord with the many other ‘stair labelling’ studies and validate the behavioural economics theory behind StepJockey.

Here is how the nine principles of behavioural economics match up to the research findings.

Principle 1: Messenger

It’s true to say that we are heavily influenced by who communicates information – whether consciously or subconsciously.

When an organisation installs StepJockey signs – with their bold but simple health messages - it makes a visible, authoritative and influential statement to its employees. It tells staff: “We are enabling and encouraging you to take a better option for your health”. Our bold, direct Signs were found to act as a kind of official “order” by research participants.

Principle 2: Incentives

Let’s face it, even when there’s a clear health gain few of us can trust ourselves to do the right thing – whether that’s shunning doughnuts or cigarettes, or summoning the motivation for a brisk 5k run. Experiments in health promotion – such as recent schemes to financially incentivise breastfeeding show that it can succeed.

Our gamification system can be combined with prizes and other incentives, but it even works well by itself. StepJockey research found that while people say the incentive is not important, in real life it sparked greater behaviour change (increasing daily stair use from 5.4 to 7.8 journeys). Even in trials without prizes on offer, people in StepJockey trials changed their behaviour just with the incentive of a positive health message.

Principle 3: Norms

“Norms” are the ways in which we’re powerfully influenced by what others do. Culture change is one of the toughest nuts to crack in any organisation. Whether it’s keeping shared areas tidy or getting people to turn up to meetings on time – the actions other people take change ours for better or worse!

StepJockey makes a change in behaviour very visible - switching from the lift to the stairs is a visible behaviour change that other healthy activities such as going to a corporate gym are not. In trials of StepJockey, 22% believed their stair climbing influenced others and 16% believed they had been influenced by others.

Principle 4: Defaults

Most of us “go with the flow” of pre-set options following a path of least resistance.

Messaging on StepJockey’s Smart Signs acts to disrupt people’s default (to use the lift) at the point where they have that choice.

In StepJockey research, stair climbing became the default option for people within 4 weeks.

Principle 5: Salience

Things that stand out as novel and relevant really grab our attention. Placing StepJockey’s Smart Signs in the entrances to buildings and in the lift lobbies means that they are impossible to avoid. Bold, contrasting colours and stylish design further add to the signs’ salience.

In our research, 95% of people remembered having seen the signs when surveyed.

Principle 6: Priming

Priming is the use of sub-conscious cues to influence our decisions. StepJockey’s Smart Signs lead from a building’s entrance to the stairs – where possible bypassing the lift. The arrows on the Smart Signs subconsciously direct us away from our default option.

Principle 7: Affect

Our actions are often dramatically changed, simply by our base emotional associations. Sport and more formal exercise provoke negative emotions for many people, but StepJockey incentivises stair climbing, which is a simple activity that has none of the same deep-seated connotations.

This is borne out by research on StepJockey users which found that those most influenced by the intervention were overweight and people who rarely did any physical activity.

Principle 8: Commitment

We all seek to be consistent with our promises and commit to things we’ve publically said we’ll do.

StepJockey’s gamified system of Challenges allows teams to be formed, each collaborating together to compete with other teams to see who can climb the most stairs and burn the most calories.

StepJockey research found that 92% of new stair climbers believed it would become a habit.

Principle 9: Ego

We tend to act in ways that make us feel good about ourselves. Reaching the top of a flight of stairs is sometimes tiring, but it is always a little satisfying.

Real feedback for users of StepJockey’s mobile app on number of steps climbed and an equivalent measure of calories used fuels people’s egos. This success naturally leads to continued behaviour as is shown by the fact that in our trials a third of people had started taking the stairs in other places.

More on the evidence behind StepJockey

We don’t just believe that StepJockey is beneficial, we’ve accumulated evidence to show that it can:

  • engage people using a building

  • appeal to the majority of people

  • get people to change

  • benefit people’s health

  • save time

Find out more about the evidence and guidance behind StepJockey.

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StepJockey is the cost-effective corporate wellness solution that’s simple and fun to do.

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