Steer: Mastering our Behaviour through Instinct, Environment and Reason represents the second stage of the RSA's project. It argues that helping people learn about how they make judgements and form habits can be a more empowering way of encouraging positive behaviour change than relying on passive "nudging" at one extreme, or rational debate at the the other.
Drawing on a range of research from several disciplines, Steer argues that this model of mindful, self-directed, and holistic behavioural change has been overlooked in much of the recent policy debates on the subject. It enables people to appraise situations, and make judgements about when they should trust, or be wary of, their gut instincts, rational judgements, or environmental influences.
Although the research was qualitative and exploratory, it suggests that in becoming more aware of how their brains operate – including the limits to conscious "controlled" decision making – people can learn to Steer their behaviour through goal-setting, repeated practice and changing the context within which they make choices.
Steer concludes that only by taking a "holistic reflexive approach" to brain science can we improve the way we navigate our automatic, controlled and environmental impulses.The project is looking to continue and expand the work to include a wider range of participants from a range of professional contexts (e.g. social work, policing, banking) in which instinctive, rational and environmentally-induced decision making is critical for success.
Cognitive scientist Hugo Mercier and his colleague Dan Sperber have made waves with the surprising results of years of research – that our power to reason has nothing to do with accuracy or truth-seeking.