Professor Madelynne Arden (Professor of Health Psychology) and Greg Fell (Director of Public Health in Sheffield)

August 2021

Maddy Arden is Professor of Health Psychology and Director of the Centre for Behavioural Science and Applied Psychology (CeBSAP) at Sheffield Hallam University.  She is a Chartered Psychologist, a full member of the DHP, and a Registered Health Psychologist (HCPC). Maddy is co-editor of the British Journal of Health Psychology and director of the Behavioural Science Consortium, which provides expertise to government on the application of behavioural science to public policy issues and is co-chair of the Yorkshire and Humber Behavioural Science hub.

Greg Fell is the Director of Public Health in Sheffield. He graduated from Nottingham University with a Degree in Biochemistry and Physiology in 1993 and since then has had various roles including a Social Researcher in a maternity ward as well as a number of roles in Health Promotion and Public Health. Since 2016, Greg has worked as the Director of Public Health for Sheffield.

Behavioural Science in the fight against Covid-19

Professor Arden talks about how everything she does is underpinned by the theories of Health Psychology and Behavioural Science and how these can be put into practice in the real world. She explains how using these theories and frameworks, in relation to Covid-19, was helpful early on to predict what might be useful and what might happen.

Underestimating the complexity of behavioural science

She goes on to discuss how many can often underestimate the complexity of behavioural science and how she’s fed up of people using the phrase ‘common sense’, questioning what exactly we mean by it and how we need to consider that people can sometimes make decisions without a conscious rationale. In reference to this, she adds that there needs to be an awareness of the different factors influencing behaviour and more insightful conversations around this.  

Thinking outside of ‘common sense’…

Greg Fell explains how he works to convince people to think outside of their own ‘common sense’. Sticking to weight, Greg discusses decision making and how we all make rational and irrational choices, in the 'here and now', not thinking about what might happen in the future. How we’re products of our environment and how this can influence the choices we make, with reference to the recent junk food advertising ban and the work he has done in the past regarding smoking cessation.  Both go on to debate the similarities and differences between smoking cessation and weight loss barriers strategies.

Takeaway Thoughts

Professor Maddy Arden summarises the need to create awareness of how broadly behavioural science can be used and highlight the basic knowledge to know how widely it can be applied.

Greg adds that behavioural science has positively begun to be applied across the Council and in agreement with Maddy, states how important it is to point out that the behavioural science ‘toolbox’ is out there, it exists and it can be used practically to solve problems.