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Competence Centre on Behavioural Insights

We support policymaking with evidence on human behaviour

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Behavioural insights for communication

Communicating with Europeans is integral to the work of the European Commission. Effective communication can profit from knowledge about the behavioural factors of the target population.

Behavioural insights

Why behavioural insights matter

To communicate effectively, we need to understand those aspects that shape how others perceive, interpret and react to our message.

Not long ago, we relied on a relatively small set of newspapers and TV shows to stay informed. Nowadays we can choose from an enormous quantity of diverse media outlets and types. Societies are changing rapidly as well. Rising extremism, global conflict, and economic insecurity can impede communication and give rise to disinformation.

Behavioural insights can help understand and improve how we acquire, use and spread information

  • We often lack the necessary knowledge, motivation and skills to assess the quality of information we consume and share – especially if the information is statistical and complex.
  • We sometimes avoid or distort information that makes us feel bad or contradicts what we believe in (this is called motivated reasoning).
  • We are influenced by how information is communicated. For example, it makes a difference whether a message focuses on the potential personal losses of a risk we might take, compared to the gains we might achieve by doing so.
  • The identity of the person delivering the communication can influence whether people pay attention to, and believe in the message.

Understanding and tackling these human peculiarities can improve the effectiveness of communications from public authorities.

How behavioural insights can help

Communication can benefit from empirical insights generated by experiments

  • Fighting disinformation
    The Communication on tackling online disinformation acknowledges the importance of behavioural factors, highlighting that part of the problem is citizens not engaging enough in checking the content they share.
    Many of the potential remedies focus on behavioural aspects, especially promoting education and media literacy.
  • Communicating social norms can reduce violence against women
    The JRC report on behavioural insights to prevent violence against women shows how communication campaigns can benefit from embedding behavioural insights. For instance, communicating social norms can change the perception that violence against women is a private issue.

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