Information Transfer and the Effectiveness of Behaviour Change Strategies in Conservation

Researcher: Emiel de Lange 

Period: 2016 – 2020

Funder:  Nerc

Other esearchers: Aidan Keane (Supervisor, University of Edinburgh), EJ Milner-Gulland (Supervisor)

Collaborators:  University of Edinburgh, University of Oxford, WCS Cambodia


PhD Overview:

treeConservation is a question of changing human behaviour. A fundamental component of many behaviour change strategies is the use of information. For example, environmental education strategies hope to use information to alter people’s attitudes, and subsequently behaviour towards the environment. Similarly, in law enforcement, a ubiquitous strategy for protected area management, would-be rule-breakers are expected to update their beliefs about the risks and costs of punishment if deterrence is to be effective. In order to do so they must receive some information about these costs.

However, information is difficult to control and very little is known about the way information flows, reaches audiences and affects behaviour change in conservation. Psychology tells us that it is not just the content of information that influences people but also the identity of the messenger and the perception of social norms.


Outline of scope of research/aims



Through this PhD project I will be examining information flows in conservation and relating this to behavioural changes, using anti-wildlife poisoning campaigns run by the Wildlife Conservation Society – Cambodia as a case study. I aim to:

  • understand how information about a conservation intervention flows through a community
  • understand how information affects the beliefs/behaviour of individual decision-makers
  • understand how the flow of information affects group behaviour
  • understand how information flow and social network methods can be harnessed to achieve conservation goals



Summary of planned activities:

Through a combination of field experiments and surveys I will map social networks and track the flow of information through these networks. I will use interviews and games to understand how information affects the beliefs and villagebehaviours of individuals. I will also carry out surveys to assess levels of target attitudes/behaviours within the community, and attempt to link changes to information-network structures.


Project outputs:

Download the PhD thesis here

Guidance on designing effective information campaigns


More information: 

You can follow the progress of my research on my blog here and on our main Project page