Professor of Health Psychology and Director of the Centre for Behaviour Change,
Title: Building the science of behaviour change
Interventions to change behaviour have great potential to improve global health and well-being. Despite some notable successes, most interventions have not led to hoped-for results. We need better answers to the variants of ‘The Big Question’: What interventions are effective in changing what behaviours for whom in what circumstances, and how? A vision of a more systematic and coordinated approach to behavioural science will be presented, along with examples of work contributing to this.
Interventions to change behaviour have great potential to improve global health and well-being. Despite some notable successes, most interventions have not led to hoped-for results. We need better answers to the variants of ‘The Big Question’: What interventions are effective in changing what behaviours for whom in what circumstances, and how? This will require a more systematic and coordinated approach to behavioural science.
This presentation will describe a programme of work that aims to build on what has been achieved thus far to create the kind of methodological, theoretical and empirical foundation needed to answer the big question more reliably than hitherto. The work centres on creating a populated behaviour change ‘ontology’ that links interventions (content and delivery), usage (extent and type), context (target population, other behaviours, setting), mechanisms of action (modifiable factors mediating behaviour change), and behavioural outcomes.
A start has been made in terms of intervention content, with a taxonomy of 93 ‘behaviour change techniques’ that can be specified in ways that cut across behavioural domains. Work has begun on developing a framework for mechanisms of action based on 83 behaviour change theories containing more than 1000 differentiable constructs. There is also the beginning of a taxonomy of behaviours identified from more than 5000 studies of behaviour change and organised within the WHO’s International Classification of Function (ICF) framework.
The enormous volume of research being published on behaviour change, estimated at more than 2000 articles each day, cannot be synthesised effectively and used to populate the behaviour change ontologies by hand. Collaboration is beginning with computer scientists to develop automated systems for extracting relevant information from articles using natural language processing and machine learning to populate the ontologies and build an interface to allow users to interrogate the ontologies with any variant of The Big Question. To the extent that this ambitious programme can be realised and is successful, progress in establishing the science of behaviour change should proceed more rapidly and intervention designers should be able to construct interventions to meet their needs with greater confidence that they will deliver the intended results.
Susan Michie is Professor of Health Psychology and Director of the Centre for Behaviour Change at University College London, UK. She completed her undergraduate and doctoral education in psychology at the University of Oxford and her clinical psychology training at the Institute of Psychiatry, University of London. She is a chartered clinical and health psychologist and a Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences, the European Health Psychology Society and the British Psychological Society.
Susan Michie’s research focuses on behaviour change in relation to health: how to understand it theoretically and apply theory to intervention development and evaluation, and to evidence synthesis. This is conducted in the domains of risky and preventive behaviours amongst the general population (e.g. condom use), managing illness (e.g. medication adherence), and professional practice and implementation (e.g. prescribing). Her work includes developing and evaluating digital interventions and investigating the fidelity of delivery of interventions. Her research develops methods to advance the study of behaviour change, including frameworks such as the Behaviour Change Wheel and the Theoretical Domains Framework, and specifying intervention content using taxonomies of behaviour change techniques (BCT Taxonomy v1).
Professor Michie is Associate Editor of Annals of Behavioral Medicine and of Implementation Science. She holds more than 25 research grants and has published more than 200 peer-reviewed journal articles and the 2014 books, The Behaviour Change Wheel Guide to Designing Interventions and ABC of Behaviour Change Theories.