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Behavioural change wheel

Behavioural change meeting

In our latest ECRAG session we had Laura Jones (our behavioural change rep) and Beck Taylor host an interactive and informative session on behavioural change theories- in particular, the behavioural change wheel.

Everyone sat in a big, but cosy, circle and we went around introducing who we are and how much experience we have with behavioural change- there was a great variety! Most of the attendees (including myself) had some prior knowledge of what behaviour change theories are, had or were planning on introducing them to their research projects. Of course we had our inquisitive, avid learners who were just curious about what all the fuss was about!

This post will present a summary of the discussion that took place.

So why choose a behavioural change theory? Well, it can help researchers to describe, explain, account for, communicate,  build on, and apply theory to help make sense of an intervention or the work being undertaken.

You may have come across theories of behavioural change, there are so many to choose from, such as ‘TTM’ (The Transtheoretical Model of behaviour change) but what COM-B or the behavioural change wheel presents is 19 behavioural change frameworks synthesised together to develop a theory and model for understanding and contextualising behaviour change. The model was developed by Susan Michie and team, and it could take us a week (especially if we were on the course!) to cover everything in-depth!

The COM-B model stands for Capability, Opportunity and Motivation for Behaviour Change. The behaviour change wheel consists of three wheels, with COM-B at the centre, then behaviour change techniques in the second circle, and then policy and guidelines in the outermost circle.

A good place to start would be to think about the behaviour that you want to change in detail. What exactly are you trying to focus on? A behaviour that appears to be simple can be quite complex. For example, encouraging children to exercise more can involve their parent’s behaviours as well their schools. The behaviour needs to be broken down in to the different actions around it.

Use of the behavioural change wheel, like any other theory, must be justified. The theory is quite popular in mainstream research and considers elements of behavioural change such as motivation, which have not been given as much consideration in the past. The use of the theory must be discussed with your stakeholders and look at the evidence base, has this theory been used in your area before?

Once you have recognised the behaviour, what the behaviour change intervention entails, justified use of the theory, there are techniques and modes of delivery to think about as well. Looking at taxonomies of behavioural change is a useful place to start! Then there are matters of timing, modality, length of behavioural change interventions to be delivered (points of contact etc.). Let’s not forget policy and guidelines to consider!

If you want to understand the strengths and weaknesses of the behavioural change wheel, then reading an article critiquing it can be incredibly useful to highlight the pros and cons.

If you missed out on this session, fear not as there are talks for developing a behavioural change group for everyone working in the area to share ideas and support each other.

A book you may find useful Click me!

See you at our next event (or blog post!)

Farina Kokab

(Research Fellow at the Institute of Applied Health Research at the University of Birmingham, ECRAG co-Chair).

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