Senior Behavioral Researcher
Center for Advanced Hindsight at Duke University
Senior behavioral researcher Joseph Sherlock works with Duke University’s Center for Advanced Hindsight, where his research primarily focuses on advancing innovation in civic society. Joseph joined us to talk about behavioral science and its potential applications and impacts on the transportation demand management space.
First, some context: transportation accounts for about 25% of all emissions caused by energy consumption. U.S. Census Bureau data shows that nearly 80% of Americans habitually drive alone, which speaks to the need to create dramatically different, much more effective mode-shift strategies and campaigns.
Joseph’s work seeks to shed light on why people make the decisions they make, and he is applying those insights to commuter choices through the lenses of behavioral economics, human-centered design, and comprehensive data-driven evaluations. He is currently engaged with a project involving the City of Durham, which received funding from the Bloomberg Foundation to identify behavioral science-backed solutions to the pervasive problems caused by solo-driving culture.
The project’s objectives include two simple goals: reduce drive-alone rates, and boost the use of sustainable alternatives. Durham iterated multiple solutions, which include:
Personalized, scalable digital route-planning tools that create unique point-to-point transportation plans that use origin and destination addresses and encourage the use of sustainable alternatives to driving
Using focus groups, expert interviews, and one-on-one sessions to refine strategies and improve the effectiveness of targeted messaging.
A randomized, controlled trial that tested the impact of a lottery-based incentive specific to bus riders.
The trial project compared a control group against a second group that had access to personalized route-planning tools as well as a third group that was offered the route-planning tool plus entry into a prize-based lottery for taking the bus. After a multi-week run, the data came in:
In the control group, 90.9% of commuters opted to drive alone while 9.1% took the bus
In the second group (route-planner only), the drive-alone rate dropped to 82.7%
In the third group (route-planner plus lottery), the drive-alone rate fell even further, to 81.6%
Joseph also touched on a similar trial project conducted with North Carolina Central University commuters. It replicated similar findings: those with access to personalized route-planning tools drove alone at lower rates, and participants with additional incentives were even more likely to use transit.
The full presentation is a must-see for anyone interested in the relationships between behavioral science and mode shift. Be sure to check it out for further details and insights.
About the Speaker:
Joseph is a Senior Behavioral Researcher at the Center for Advanced Hindsight. He is currently on secondment (temporary assignment) from central government in the UK where he is a Principle Behavioural Scientist with HM Revenue and Customs. At the Center, he leads the applied work with governments and is generally interested in bringing innovation into civic society.
He has previously worked in the Behavioural Insights Team in Public Health, as a Branding Consultant for Clear M&C Saatchi and has co-founded a behavioral and wellbeing science consultancy. Joseph has a First Class Psychology degree from the University of Bath and holds an MSc in Social Policy from The London School of Economics.