ISM framework and factors

Click on the factors and contexts for a brief description and example illustrating each factor. More detail is provided in “A technical guide to the Individual, Social and Material (ISM) approach to influencing behaviours” A. Darnton and D. Evans, June 2013, Scottish Government, 2013. 

Individual

This includes the factors held by the individual that affect the choices and the behaviours he or she undertakes. These include an individual’s values, attitudes and skills, as well as the calculations he/she makes before acting, including personal evaluations of costs and benefits.

Values, Beliefs, Attitudes

Our basic motivational factors. Human cultures share a common family of Values, broadly: self-enhancing Values (authority, power, security, etc); and selftranscendent Values (equality, broadmindedness, social justice, etc).

 

Beliefs are largely learned from our prevailing culture and social Norms. Beliefs and Values determine our Attitudes which influence our intentions that shape our actions.

 

Example: Messages and activities of others, including Institutions, such as family, government and the media, influence individuals’ Values, Beliefs and Attitudes. (see www.valuesandframes.org for more information)

Costs & Benefits

Costs and Benefits: Basic method of decision-making. We weigh perceived benefits of acting against perceived Costs, including non-monetary Costs such as Time.

Example: Is walking to work worth the health Benefits and/or Cost savings versus the extra Time?

Emotions

Emotions: Our survival “auto-pilot”, critical to decision-making, helps us learn and gain insight. Fear, anger, sadness, disgust, surprise, and happiness are universally recognised facial expressions of Emotion.

 

Example: See article on how brain damage affected one man’s ability to make rational decisions.

Agency

Agency: Confidence, free-will, empowerment, ability to act without needing permission from others.

 

Example: Improving comfort levels in personal workspace by introducing plants for natural screening without having to seek approval from line managers or facility managers.

Skills

Skills: “Know how” (procedural knowledge) and “know what” (factual knowledge). Knowledge alone does not fully determine behaviour but modifies our Attitudes and Values.

 

Example: Knowing how to sort recyclates does not mean we will do so. Knowing what happens to our waste and the impacts might influence our Attitude towards recycling.

Habit

Habit: Automatic and frequent or familiar activity that requires no/little conscious thought and usually occurs at the same time or place.

 

Example: Commuting, showering and other routines and common practices.

Social

This includes the factors that exist beyond the individual in the social realm, yet shape his or her behaviours. These influences include understandings that are shared amongst groups, such as social norms and the meanings attached to particular activities, as well as people’s networks and relationships, and the institutions that influence how groups of individuals behave.

Opinion Leaders

Individuals who have a strong influence over others, for instance in shaping social Norms.

 

Example: Celebrity chefs promoting more sustainable means of food production and consumption.

Institutions

Influence how we interact within groups engaging in particular activities. We are part of Institutions from cradle to grave. Can be formal, such as legal system or informal, such as family life.

 

Example: An employer setting a hierarchy or framework around business travel needs and expectations - telephone and video-conferencing, active or public transport, private car etc.

Norms

Our perception of how people (especially ‘significant’ others) view our behaviour; norms strongly influence our intentions, decisions and actions.

 

Example: Travelling by air with friends and family members who think of flying as the obvious choice when there are lower carbon alternatives.

Roles & Identity

Influence how we interact within groups engaging in particular activities. We are part of Institutions from cradle to grave. Can be formal, such as legal system or informal, such as family life.

 

Example: An employer setting a hierarchy or framework around business travel needs and expectations - telephone and video-conferencing, active or public transport, private car etc.

Tastes

Demonstrate our particular preferences, styles and consumption practices, signal our belonging to particular social groups, based on shared understandings of appropriate and desirable conduct. Social and cultural phenomena concerning taste are closely linked to Relationships and dynamics between people.

 

Examples: Cultural tastes, such as music, fashion, sport, food, and art.

Meanings

Cultural frameworks which give meaning to daily life, includes ideas, images, metaphors and associations; used widely by the media and marketing industry.

 

Example: During the 20th century smoking was often used to convey mystery, glamour and sophistication - particularly in cinema – contrast with modern meanings of smoking being unhealthy and anti-social.

Networks & Relationships

Our connections with others which we draw upon to identify and carry out activities (‘social capital’). How ideas, innovations and behaviours can spread, for example local food networks.

 

Example: Car-sharing with colleagues or neighbours, creating a food-growers co-operative.

Material

This includes the factors that are ‘out there’ in the environment and wider world, which both constrain and shape behaviour. These influences include existing ‘hard’ infrastructures, technologies and regulations, as well as other ‘softer’ influences such as time and the schedules of everyday life.

Rules & Regulations

Formally prescribe or prohibit certain behaviours if set by an Institution such as governments but can also be an implicit factor in determining appropriate conduct and Norms in daily life.

 

Example: Formal requirements on wearing of personal protective equipment required by health and safety at work legislation contrasted with less formal but implicit dress codes for office workers.

Technologies

Often thought to bypass behaviour, but human interactions with Technology influence its effectiveness and change or enable new practices.

 

Example: Smartphones and social media’s influence the creation of new communication Norms and practices, such as the rising popularity of dating apps.

Infrastructure

Physical structures (or lack of) which can override Motivational drive.

Example: Lack of safe cycle/footpaths on busy roads, absence of public transport services, energy intensive buildings with poor thermal stability.

Objects

The things we use or need, a lack of which prevents a behaviour or action from happening. Objects can ‘act back’ influencing how much time we spend on activities.

 

Example: The Time needed to maintain/repair a bike might discourage use; the profusion of bins for different recyclates can become confusing and make recycling more Time-consuming.

Time & Schedules

Time is a finite and scarce resource that we have to allocate across competing demands.

 

Example: Introducing new workplace (Institutions) schedules for flexitime or remote-working can facilitate changes to staff commuting Habits.