• Elina Halonen

Theory-informed or theory-inspired behaviour change?


I want to highlight a great article from Sarah Osman where she explains the reason why both broad AND deep knowledge of the BeSci theoretical landscape as well as how to apply it are crucially important for practitioners.


Some of the reasons why interventions might not be successful include:

  • The wrong theory is selected or isn't not applied as intended

  • The theory does not specify behaviour change techniques,

  • Behaviour change techniques are not applied correctly

  • Theory does not specify Forms of Delivery

  • Theory has limited generalizability or range of application


As Sarah highlights, one crucial mistake is not analysing the full scope of behavioural determinants for a given behaviour - i.e. you get the diagnosis wrong from the beginning. She gives a couple of suggestions for how to go beyond invidual-level measures - see more in the article.


Another important question is whether interventions are “theory-inspired” versus “theory-based”. Interventions should be well-documented and theory-based, so if you are commissioning behaviour change work, your chosen specialist should be able to answer the following questions:

  • What was the process of identifying key behaviours?

  • How was formative research conducted to identify the barriers and facilitators?

  • How were relevant theories identified?

  • How were barriers prioritised?

  • How were behaviour change tactics selected?

Otherwise it's more in the category of “theory-inspired interventions [that] pay ‘lip service’ to behavioural theory but fail to link intervention components with relevant theoretical determinants.”*


Highly recommended reading:

https://www.osmanadvisoryservices.com/how-does-behavioural-theory-improve-intervention-design/


* (original reference Hagger & Weed, 2019)

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