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Core thematic strands

In 2012 the Social Brain Project formally became The RSA Social Brain Centre, to reflect the growing range and influence of our work, and highlight our enduring commitment to applying behavioural insights to our most pressing challenges.

'Human nature' is our broad domain, and 'behaviour change' our broad concern, but The Social Brain Centre filters decisions about incoming project ideas in terms of three principle strands that we believe give us powerful lenses to analyse practical challenges:

Habits, Attention and Decisions


  • Most of our acquired behaviour is habitual in that we typically act without consciously thinking about what we are doing.
  • Our individual and collective success and wellbeing depends upon managing or changing bad habits and forming, maintaining and spreading good ones.


  • Modern technology, for all its innumerable life enhancing benefits, is making new and not always positive demands on our attention: on how we concentrate, read, think, connect, and reflect.
  • We would like to contribute to work that ensures we retain our capacity to pay attention, to appreciate depth, and to be more fully present, both with what we are doing and who we are with. In this respect, we are hoping to develop work relating to Mindfulness with the support of RSA Fellows in the near future.


  • Most decisions do not stem from the sanitised logic of profit maximisation but on the basis of familiar heuristics, the decisions of others, emotional associations and 'doing the right thing'.
  • We seem to care more about the short term than the long term, are more concerned with loss than gain, and evaluate on the basis of relative rather than absolute value.
  • At the same time, we are highly sensitive to cognitive dissonance, and will distort and deny evidence in order to continue to think of ourselves as rational.

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