Students design 21 behavioural interventions in 10 weeks

How can you motivate people to make healthier and more sustainable choices? And how can you use digital media to facilitate and promote such a positive behavioural change? Students learn the answers to these and other questions during the minor positive behavioural change in the digital age. This new minor, offered by the Erasmus School of Social and Behavioural Sciences (ESSB), challenges students to choose a behavioural problem and devise an appropriate and effective solution using various behavioural and communication theories. The minor first launched in September, and students presented their projects on November 1. Psychology students Rafique Abdoelkariem and Maxime van der Laan talk about their experiences with the minor.

Mini-conference around behavioural problem

The minor covers theories related to behaviour change, which is gaining a lot of interest due to the recent Covid crisis. For Rafique, this was also one of the reasons for choosing this minor: "I find behavioural change very interesting. It can be used but also abused in so many ways.' Maxime is especially enthusiastic about the practical aspect of the minor: 'I was looking for a minor that doesn't have standard blocks and ends with an exam. I especially wanted to do something with the knowledge I've gained in recent years.' Students choose a behavioural problem related to (mental) health, love, relationships, or sustainability during the minor. The minor concludes with a mini-conference where students are allowed to present their interventions.

Art as an intervention

Maxime and her group of fellow students investigated women's contraceptive use between the ages of 12 and 25 in a specific neighbourhood in Rotterdam. The focus here was on wanting to broaden these women's choice of contraception. Research shows that many women choose the contraceptive pill, while this is not necessarily the most appropriate choice for every woman. 'We came up with an intervention in the form of artworks that are quite provocative and even a bit weird. These artworks (such as a 'Wenskut' and IUD tree) are displayed on the street. Passersby who view artworks up close are invited to scan QR codes that lead them to a website that provides more information about the different types of contraceptives. In this way, women are better informed and can choose a contraceptive method that best suits their body.'

App against Phubbing

With his group, Rafique presented an intervention for Phubbing (=phone and snubbing). This term is used when you ignore the people in your physical environment because you are on your phone. Rafique and his group came up with the idea of an app that messages people if they are on their phone too much during social interaction, for example, when going out to dinner. The app teaches people about their phubbing behaviour and the consequences. It also nudges them to use their phones less, for instance, by offering a discount voucher. 'During the intervention development, it was very interesting to sit with students from other programs. We were all concerned with the same issue but could apply many different insights and perspectives' says Rafique.

Practical and academic skills

After successfully presenting the interventions, both students look back on the minor with a positive feeling. What surprised me the most during this minor was that positive behavioural change can be applied in many different ways. It is a very instructive minor in which you learn more in a practical way. This makes it very fun and varied, and it provides additional depth to the knowledge previously gained' says Rafique. Maxime also has no regrets about her choice: "The 10 weeks have really flown by. By building your own intervention, you learn how to use the literature and how to substantiate that something can work. That skill will definitely come in handy when I write my thesis.' 


A total of 85 students participated in the minor, and 21 interventions were presented. Check here for more information about the minor

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