Do Something Different

Despite an enormous volume of previous research and some generally accepted models, there has been limited success in bringing about desired behaviour changes in the real world (e.g. health, environment, social exclusion, family functioning).

Interventions that provide information, education or incentives assume that people will willingly take health messages on board and then act in ways that reflect their best interests. However, most do not.

Our research has unearthed the reasons why current methods fail. The underpinning research – originally in FIT Science and more recently on Do Something Different has shown two findings key to successful behaviour change.

The two findings key to successful behaviour change

  1. The psychological differences between individuals in how they perceive their environment is much greater than the variations between environments (e.g. jobs, stressful situations).  This implies that practical interventions which focus on the environmental factors will have less efficacy that those which tackle the individual’s cognitive and behavioural patterns. Fletcher's empirical studies and subsequent evaluations of occupational mortality data confirmed the close relationship between occupational and personal variables central to the FIT Science notion that apparent environmental factors in the workplace (E-properties) could be reconsidered as reflections of the person or P-properties. FIT provided a framework to delineate these P-properties.
  2. Willpower plays little role in behaviour change and is overwhelmed by inertia and habits of thinking and behaviour. This has been the subject of research studies in the School showing that there is little relationship between self-report and actual behaviour, that ‘behavioural rebound’ occurs if people try to suppress their will, and that direct intervention studies in which Do Something Different is used to break habitual patterns of behaviour distal to the target change can be very effective.

Three strands of research

Three strands of research are described to illustrate the broad implications and applications of this research:

a) We have chosen a community research application which focussed on changes in behaviour within large populations of people with either face-to-face delivery via trained professionals, or with on-line and SMS delivery.

b) Personality trait research. In contrast to the community research, this strand focuses on very narrow research questions in relation to traditional personality theory.

c) Fashion Psychology research. Habits of thinking and behaviour are very apparent in the design of clothing and in the clothes people wear. We are investigating Do Something Different as a design aid for improving innovation and creativity with academic partners in Turkey (Istanbul Bilgi University).

We have also begun a new line of research in a relatively neglected field – enclothed cognition, or how clothing variables influence the wearer’s moods, cognitions and behaviours. This compliments our longer-standing work in fashion psychology which considers how clothing manipulations influence observers judgements of the wearer.

Do Something Different in the community

Significant Do Something Different community interventions begun in West Norfolk in 2009 initially to improve the health and wellbeing of circa 10,000 people in 2 residential areas of King’s Lynn.

The research project has expanded to include large areas of East Anglia for many different applications. To date around 300 staff groups/agencies have been trained to use Do Something Different including Health Trainers, Community Mental Health Workers, Health Visitors, Learning Catalysts in schools, Nurses and school teachers.

The interventions are also being researched in other areas in the UK and  in Europe and we have also worked with the NHS and other agencies (e.g. National Autistic Society) to design and test Do Something Different interventions to help with wider mental health issues.

In Europe, there are several major developments and The Do programmes have been developed for on-line, multi-language delivery. The most advanced current research is in collaboration with MedicInfo with CZ, VGZ (2 of the 3 largest health insurance companies in the Netherlands).

Personality variability

The Do Something Different framework shows that people can expand their natural tendencies in behaviour for positive benefit.

We are looking in depth at the issue of trait variability since it would appear to have many positive utilities. Initially our research programme is based around four research questions

  1. What is the extent of True (as opposed to Error) variability in personality test scores?
  2. What are the predictors of inter-individual and intra-individual variability in personality?
  3. What is the relative importance of situational vs. individual factors in personality variability?
  4. How do these different factors in personality variability explain why some people are resistant to change, especially with regard to behaviours that are bad for them?

Broadly speaking our research is showing how important true variability in personality test scores are for making the most of life, although there are differences in trait variability and these have major implications for behaviour change and personal flexibility.

Fashion psychology

Previous research has paid attention to the effects of major apparel variables (e.g. skirt vs. suit; casual vs. smart) on the judgements that other people make of the wearer.

Our research suggests that quite minor changes to clothing can affect important judgements others make of the wearer (e.g. intelligence, personality, trustworthiness, behavioural flexibility, confidence, responsibility, authority, and organisation).

These judgements can also depend on occupational variables too (e.g. a woman wearing a skirt suit above rather than below the knee will be judged negatively if she is a senior manager than if a receptionist) Clothes make a difference.

In the context of Do Something Different a major strand of this research is looking at how the wearer internalises the properties of clothes and incorporates them into their self-concept. For example,

  • Can clothes change mood?
  • What cognitive consequences can different clothing have?
  • What cognitive factors affect clothing choices and habitual/constrained apparel?

Do Something Different is also being applied in the process of fashion design itself. Innovation and growth emerge from error, accident and the adoption of odd ways of looking, from breaking free of old habitual ways of thinking and behaving – the essence of Do Something Different.

We have begun a project – in collaboration with Istanbul Bilgi University – that is exploring how Do Something Different influences the fashion design process. This project was chosen for exhibition as part of the Istanbul Design Biennale 2012.

Our team

  • Professor Ben (C) Fletcher
  • Professor Karen Pine
  • Dr. Shivani Sharma
  • Professor Gary Kupshik
  • Neil Howlett
  • Jamie Churchyard
  • Anna Merziani
  • Dr. Nicole Stokoe