Summary of Social Science Theories

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Tipsheet: Summary of Social Science Theories
How to Use Stages of Change Theory
According to Stages of Change Theory, people go through five main stages as they learn and adopt new behaviour: • Stage 1: The person has not thought about making behaviour change. “I don’t smoke that much.” • Stage 2: The person begins to think about making a change. “Maybe it’s time I thought about quitting.” • Stage 3: The person prepares for change. “I just sent away for a kit that will help me give up smoking.” • Stage 4: The person begins to make changes. “I’ve gone all day without a cigarette.” • Stage 5: This stage is the two to three year period after the change when the person continues to perform the new behaviour. “Since I gave up smoking, I’ve saved enough money for that vacation that I always wanted to take.” People should be matched with programs and services at their stage in the change process.

Stages of Change Theory in Action
A heart-health program in Pawtucket, Rhode Island, used Stages of Change theory to develop an exercise program. The change stage of each person taking part in the program was identified by a special questionnaire. • People in Stage 2, who did not exercise but wanted to start, received “What’s In It For You?” This four-page booklet included suggestions for activity and ways in which people could reward themselves for exercising. • People in Stage 3, who exercised some of the time, received a booklet called “Ready for Action,” which included information on the costs and benefits of physical activity, how to set short- and long-term goals, rewards for being more active, time management and tips for starting a walking program. • People in Stage 4 had just started to exercise regularly. They received a booklet called “Keeping it Going,” which included information on dealing with situations that could case people to stop being active, rewards for physical activity, setting goals, avoiding injury and choosing an exercise partner.

The Health Communication Unit • www.thcu.ca •Developed 1992 • Format Updated July 2003

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How to Use Social Learning Theory
Here are the main points about behaviour change made by Social Learning theory: • You need to change a person’s environment in order to encourage healthy behaviour. Providing free child care, for example, makes it easier for parents to take part in activities to prevent low birthweight babies. • A person’s beliefs about healthy behaviours are important. Information sometimes has to be provided in order to correct beliefs that are not true (e.g., smoking does not harm unborn children). • People sometimes need special training, such as learning a new exercise, in order to adopt healthy behaviours. • People learn about new things by watching others, so role models are an effective way to teach healthy behaviours. • People are more likely to perform a healthy behaviour when they are rewarded for doing so. • Praise (favourable remarks about a job well done) is a reward that most people value. • People are also more likely to perform a behaviour when they believe that something good, such as weight loss, will happen as a result. • Self confidence is important; new behaviours should be introduced in small steps, so people can build confidence in their ability to make healthy behaviours changes.

Social Learning Theory in Action
A heart health program in Minnesota, U.S.A. used Social Learning Theory to develop a healthy eating activity for children: • Each child taking part in the program received a packet in the mail. The packet contained special activities on eating healthily that the children completed with their parents. By encouraging parents to become involved, the program attempted to change the child’s environment as well as his/her view of the environment. • The packets also contained a comic book. The characters in the comic book served as role models for healthy eating habits. • The information in the packets taught children the knowledge and...
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