In the past, behavior change research tended to act as though humans were sponges, such that by simply learning something we would then immediately and forever more act based on that knowledge. If only that were true… but, unfortunately, in the modern world it is increasingly apparent that that is not how people work. We are not purely rational beings

Instead, the Behaviour Change Wheel (a.k.a. The Wheel) recognizes that humans are irrational beings who make decisions that may be bad for us all the time. Behavior is instead seen as being influenced by three factors (which in turn influence each other) and that within these are various types of sources of behavior:

Capability: the ability to change a specific behavior, including physical (i.e. physical skill, stamina, or strength) and psychological (i.e. ability and skills to engage in mental processes or knowledge) elements.

Opportunity: the external environment, including physical (i.e. what is allowed for or facilitated in the external world, such as time or resources) and social (i.e. cultural norms or social cues) components.

Motivation: reflective (i.e. personal beliefs about what is good or bad) and automatic (e.g. wants, needs, or desires) drivers.

What’s great about the Wheel is it then connects these sources of behavior to specific intervention functions (the middle ring), which campaigners and advocates can use to address specific sources of behavior. These are further linked to types of policy (the outer ring).

The Wheel is therefore the first comprehensive behavior change framework and is one I draw on extensively in my research. In their accompanying book, Mitchie et al. provide some great tools for researchers, advocates, and policy makers to use the Wheel in changing behavior.

For more information on the Wheel:

Michie S, Atkins L and West R (2014) The Behaviour Change Wheel: A Guide to Designing Interventions. UK: Silverback Publishing.

Further reading:

Atkins L and Michie S (2013) Changing eating behaviour: What can we learn from behavioural science? Nutrition Bulletin 38(1): 30–35.

Michie S, Johnston M, Abraham C, et al. (2005) Making psychological theory useful for implementing evidence based practice: a consensus approach. BMJ Quality & Safety 14: 26–33.

Michie S, Ashford S, Sniehotta FF, et al. (2011) A refined taxonomy of behaviour change techniques to help people change their physical activity and healthy eating behaviours: The CALO-RE taxonomy. Psychology & Health 26(11): 1479–1498.

Michie S, van Stralen MM and West R (2011) The behaviour change wheel: A new method for characterising and designing behaviour change interventions. Implementation Science 6(1).

Michie S, Richardson M, Johnston M, et al. (2013) The Behavior Change Technique Taxonomy (v1) of 93 Hierarchically Clustered Techniques: Building an International Consensus for the Reporting of Behavior Change Interventions. Annals of Behavioral Medicine 46(1): 81–95.

Michie S, West R, Campbell R, et al. (2014) ABC of Behaviour Change Theories. Great Britain: Silverback Publishing.

Robert W, van Stralen Maartje M, Susan M, et al. (2011) The behaviour change wheel: A new method for characterising and designing behaviour change interventions. Implementation Science 6(1): 42.

6 thoughts on “The Behaviour Change Wheel

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