Change or fail: Why human behaviour matters for pest animal control

Published 28 May 2015

Is it a pest problem or a people problem when managing the complex challenge of pest animals? The essential ingredient of pest animal communications – to deploy what we know about human behaviour – is being promoted in a new practical guide from the Invasive Animals Cooperative Research Centre and the University of New England.

Professor Don Hine

Professor Don Hine

The publication, Behaviourally Effective Communications for Invasive Animals Management: A Practical Guide, aims to make life easier for communication practitioners by explaining in plain English how advances in psychology can change behaviour and empower farmers and land managers to adopt new approaches for best practice pest animal control.

The lead author of the guide, Professor Don Hine from the University of New England, said most traditional communications aimed to increase awareness and change attitudes. But he said a significant body of research revealed a big gap between attitude and behaviour.

“Changing someone’s mind, or convincing them about an issue, doesn’t automatically translate into changing their behaviour,” Professor Hine said. “For example, think of the last time you resolved to go on a diet or exercise more. How often do your well-informed attitudes and best intentions fail to result in sustained behaviour change?”

Professor Hine said many of the problems associated with pest animal management were really problems of human behaviour.

“No matter what toxins, guns or other technologies are used, you still need a person to go out there and lay the bait, pull the trigger or install the ejector,” he said. “The big question is how do we get people to do that?”

In addition to laying out solutions from the behavioural sciences in the guide, Professor Hine’s team will conduct workshops later this year to help communications practitioners bridge the gap between theory and practice.

“If you’re working on the ground undertaking pest animal control, or you’re tasked with developing communications, we’re hoping this guide and the workshops will make your job easier.”

The publication Behaviourally Effective Communications for Invasive Animals Management: A Practical Guide is available at PestSmart Connect www.pestsmart.org.au/behaviourally-effective-communications-for-invasive-animals-management.