At the department of Technology, Human and Institutional Behaviour (HIB), we are specialists in the science of behaviour change and the interplay between human behaviour and technology.
Why do we behave the way we do, and how does our behaviour change? Why is it that some people can successfully adapt their diet or lifestyle, and others seem unable to? What drives behavioural changes among people and groups? How can our governments help us to behave in ways that are healthy, sustainable and inclusive, or that will make our countries, societies and cities a safer place to live? What role can technologies play – from virtual reality or artificial intelligence to human-media interaction and value-based design – in influencing our behaviour for the better? And, conversely, what does our behaviour tell us about how these new technologies should be developed? These are some of the key questions we deal with as researchers, educators and societal problem solvers at the HIB department.
At a university known for its High Tech Human Touch approach, and as part of a faculty specialised in merging social sciences with technology and engineering, it goes without saying that our involvement in UT education reaches far, and across many disciplinary boundaries. The goal of our department is to equip professionals – whether next-gen or veteran – with the knowledge and tools they need to understand how behaviour change works, and how, in a tech-driven world and across different societal domains, it can be influenced for the better.
At this department, we study behaviour change from a cross-disciplinary perspective that includes psychological, social, communicative and governmental theories. We make intensive use of the latest technological innovations as a method of understanding behaviour. Think, for example, of machine-learning, artificial intelligence (AI), text mining, human-media interaction, or experience-sampling. We also use and study tech as a means of facilitating behaviour change. Examples of this include value-based and creative design, the use of sensors in influencing behaviour, virtual reality, gamification, and, of course, apps.
Our research centres
- Centre for eHealth & Wellbeing Research
Here, our research covers many themes and topics, from methods for helping people to live smoke-free to distress, wellbeing and self-compassion among crisis line volunteers, the PARTNR platform for personalised cancer treatment, virtual coaching for emotional eaters, or the Rheum@Home clinic of the future for rheumatic care.
- Centre for Digital Inclusion
How can government institutions make sure their digital services reach even the most difficult-to-reach groups? How can developers of smart devices serve less skilled users, such as the elderly? What does the transition to a complex Internet of Things system mean for users? Or how can consumers benefit much more from the tracking devices more and more of them are using? These are typical research questions we delve into at the Centre for Digital Inclusion.
- Centre for European Studies
This section is closely involved in all of our public administration education: the Bachelor’s in Management, Society & Technology (MS&T), the Joint Degree Public Governance across Borders (PGaB), the Master’s Public Administration (PA), the Master’s European Studies (ES), and the Double Degree Comparative Public Governance (CPG).
- Centre for the Study of Democracy
Our team members here focus on social science research on the conditions, mechanisms and effects of democracy at all levels of governance (local, regional, national, European, international, global). The main themes: democracy, political participation and political representation; democracy and legislative decision-making; and democracy and systems of governance.
- European Centre for Behaviour Change (under development)
More examples of research and student projects
- The Virtual Nature concept is the result of our department’s research on the impact of nature on people. In this research, we study how different aspects of nature affect people, for example, in hospitals, care homes and other care facilities. The research is helping us to contribute to the development of ‘healing environments’ in buildings, homes and offices.
- The ExperiVan, a state of art mobile research lab, typifies our approach, taking research tools out of the lab and in among citizens and target groups. One of our PhD candidates used the van to test and develop an online health platform aimed at raising awareness of so-called zonoosis – diseases that can spread from animals to humans. The van enabled him to conduct research in the middle of the city.
- One of our Master’s students (Communication Science) researched how a virtual communication environment – for instance under COVID-19 restrictions – impacts team performance and the job satisfaction of individuals.
- Another Master’s student (Psychology and Conflict, Risk & Safety) used different Virtual Reality neighbourhoods to explore how green spaces and their maintenance can help to prevent crime, and what green space features can contribute to crime reduction and a sense of safety.
Creating value for society
As a part of the ultimate people-first university of technology to empower society through sustainable solutions, the HIB department aims to create real value in everything we do. Helping people and society toward long-term changes of behaviour is an important part of many of the challenges our world faces today. Think of developing sustainable and healthy lifestyles, or the ability to adapt to constant change, or to live in a digitalised environment: our expertise helps people and groups to stay on the same page in a changing world.
Other areas in which our expertise can make a difference include algorithmic governance, maintaining social cohesion and connectedness, and digital healthcare. Starting from a common vision of a fair, sustainable, digital society, we support a wide range of organisations in designing responsible solutions and interventions in key areas, such as safety, health, well-being, sustainability, and connected societies. We also collaborate with local and national governments, offering evidence-based policy input.
Through our education, research and applications, we contribute to four of our faculty’s research themes: health, smart industry, sociotechnological transformation, and resilience for smart cities, sustainable communities and safe societies.