Consumer Behavior

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GSR Behaviour Change Knowledge Review

Reference Report: An overview of
behaviour change models and their
uses

Andrew Darnton, Centre for Sustainable
Development, University of Westminster
July 2008

Contents
1. Introduction
2. Understanding Behaviour
2.1 Economic assumptions
2.2 Behavioural economics
2.3 The role of information and the value action gap
2.4 Values, beliefs and attitudes
2.5 Norms and identity
2.6 Agency, efficacy and control
2.7 Habit and routine
2.8 The role of emotions
2.9 External factors
2.10 Self regulation
2.11 Societal factors

1
5
5
7
10
11
15
18
22
24
26
29
32

3. Using Behavioural Models

34

4. Understanding Change

39

4.1
4.2
4.3
4.4
4.5

Changing habits
Change in stages
Change via social networks
Change as learning
Change in systems

39
41
44
47
51

5. Applied Approaches to Change

57

6. Issues Around Intervening

64

6.1 Ethical issues
6.2 Equity issues
6.3 Side effects

64
65
67

7. Using Behavioural Models with Theories of Change

68

Appendices

70

i)
ii)
iii)
iv)
v)

Tables matching behaviours to models
Methodology
Organisations and Individuals Contacted
Electronic bibliography
References

70
74
76
77
77

1.

Introduction

This report has been designed to accompany the Practical Guide to Behaviour Change models1. It provides a descriptive account of over 60 social-psychological models and theories of behaviour and discusses some issues to consider when using models. It also provides additional resources in the Appendices to enable readers to access the vast amount of literature in this area and see where models have been used to address particular behaviours previously.

This review makes the distinction between models of behaviour and theories of change. This is primarily an explanatory step, taken to highlight the different uses (and limits) of the types of models and theories incorporated in the behaviour change literature. Models of behaviour help us to understand specific behaviours, by identifying the underlying factors, which influence them. By contrast, theories of change show how behaviours change over time, and can be changed. While behavioural theory is diagnostic, designed to explain the determinant factors underlying behaviour, change theory is more pragmatic, developed in order to support interventions for changing current behaviours or encouraging the adoption of new behaviours. While the two bodies of theory have distinct purposes, they are highly complementary; understanding both is essential in order to develop effective interventions. The distinction is stressed throughout this review, but its value is most apparent in the context of practical guidance. It underlines that an understanding of behaviour alone provides insufficient clues on which to base effective processes for changing behaviour. Theories of change suggest intervention techniques which can be effective in bringing about change, as well as broad approaches to intervention design, implementation and evaluation which can underpin effective policy planning and delivery. However, seen from a purely conceptual perspective, the distinction between theories of behaviour and theories of change can appear less clear-cut. There are considerable overlaps between the two bodies of theory; for instance, behavioural models tend to be linear (showing the relationships between influencing factors as a series of arrows), models of change tend to be circling, incorporating feedback loops. Alternatively, while behavioural models tend to describe specific behaviours, models of change more commonly depict generic processes of change. However in both these examples the distinctions do not hold fast, as some models predominantly of one type show characteristics of the other. Classifying models of behaviour change into discrete types based on their attributes is an apparently impossible task.

The structure of the...
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