ABC of Behaviour Change Theories

An Essential Resource for Researchers, Policy Makers and Practitioners

Written by Susan Michie, Robert West, Rona Campbell, Jamie Brown & Heather Gainforth

About the Theories

The theories in this compendium cover a very wide range of constructs many of which overlap.

Some of the theories have a very broad focus, including intra-individual and external influences, while others address specific aspects of motivation such as a desire for self-determination, norms and moral imperatives.

Some of them, such as the Self-Regulation Theory focus on change processes while others, such as the Behavioural-Ecological Model focus on factors that maintain ongoing behaviour. Theories also vary in how far they address specific behaviours such as unsafe sexual practices versus health-related behaviours or even behaviour in general.

Another important type of difference for theories focusing on individuals is how far they focus on cognitions (particularly beliefs), affect (feelings), habits, or attempt to bring these together into a common framework.

When deciding which theories to use for intervention design, it can be helpful to have a basis for evaluating their quality. The book includes nine criteria for evaluating theory quality.

Readers should also consider referring to the companion volume, ‘The Behaviour Change Wheel: A Guide to Designing Interventions’ (see

If you would like to suggest an addition or amendment to the theories, constructs or network analyses, you can do so here.

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