Lighting a fire under public health and safety education: influence through rational choice, reasoned behavior, and behavioral economics
McNamara, Timothy W.
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Many public health and safety education interventions have failed because practitioners did not apply effective methods of influence to alter individuals' actions. Identification of successful methods has been complicated by the lack of a theory to describe the factors that cause individuals to perform recommended practices. This thesis investigated the methods that were responsible for success in individual-level public health and safety interventions. A comparative case study was conducted on a set of interventions that encouraged seat belt use, bicycle helmet wearing, and alcohol moderation. Each intervention was analyzed using a four-model approach encompassing rational choice, reasoned behavior, and both intuitive and reflective interpretations of behavioral economics in order to detect methods that might have influenced individuals to change their actions. Comparative analysis between case analyses permitted identification of the intervention methods that are correlated with successful health and safety programs in general. The social forces of injunctive pressure and public commitment were found to be correlated with effective programs of influence. This thesis concludes that future public health and safety education interventions may achieve success by leveraging peer pressure and public commitments to elicit compliance with desired practices.
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