Intended for healthcare professionals

Observations BMJ Confidential

Theresa Marteau: Tackling behaviour change

BMJ 2014; 348 doi: (Published 21 May 2014) Cite this as: BMJ 2014;348:g3360


Theresa Marteau wants to change our minds about changing behaviour. She is director of the Department of Health’s policy research unit on behaviour and health at Cambridge University and specialises in identifying the most effective ways of helping people to change bad health habits. This is tough, as years of well meaning government exhortations have shown. Public acceptability is highest where intervention is least intrusive, she has found; but unobtrusive interventions don’t tend to be effective. Can “nudging” people succeed where information and persuasion have failed? She’s agnostic about that, but she may be nudged by some evidence of success.

What was your earliest ambition?

To become a nun, to atone for sins that in my 9 year old mind would inexorably lead to eternal damnation.

Who has been your biggest inspiration?

The social psychologists who worked after the second world war to understand …

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