Behavioral change models are designed to provide clarity on why we behave the way we do and, in the context of healthcare interventions, help us replace undesirable behaviors with those that are more beneficial. Behavioral change models seek to explain the reasons behind changes in human behavior.
Understanding behavioral change models
But as many of us can no doubt attest, changing a behavior is easier said than done.
Since behavior is often ingrained and carried out subconsciously, behavioral change models are used to develop interventions that are both effective and sustainable.
The positive implications for behavioral change can be significant – particularly over the long term.
Numerous studies have demonstrated that small changes to one’s behavior can increase their health and life expectancy and enhance the way they relate to others.
To that end, behavioral change models have been used in the following contexts:
- Health – to quit smoking or alcohol, choose healthier food options, adopt a regular exercise routine, and drive safely.
- The environment – to reduce littering, save electricity, and encourage recycling, and
- Well-being – to reduce procrastination, go to bed earlier, practice mindfulness, and be more assertive in the workplace.
While behavioral change models are often associated with the healthcare industry, they can also explain how new ideas, products, and innovations spread through a population or social system.
To a lesser extent, they are also useful in criminal investigations, energy use reduction, effective teaching, and international development.
Behavioral change model examples
Numerous behavioral change models have been developed over the years to cater to a diverse range of situations. We have listed some of the popular models below.
The transtheoretical model
The transtheoretical model (TTM) was developed in the late 1970s by James Prochaska and Carlo DiClemente.
Also known as the stages of change model, TTM was initially conceived to help individuals overcome addictions and other problematic behavior such as overeating, alcohol abuse, and smoking.
Prochaska and DiClemente identified six stages of change:
- Precontemplation – the individual does not intend to change their behavior and may lack awareness or confidence in their ability to do so.
- Contemplation – the individual intends to change their behavior within six months but can become stuck because of the potential drawbacks and challenges.
- Preparation – the individual intends to change within the next 30 days and may have joined a support group or purchased a self-help book.
- Action – in the fourth stage, the individual has changed their behavior within the last six months and intends to stick with that change. They may have modified an existing behavior or adopted a healthier behavior.
- Maintenance – in the maintenance stage, the new behavior has been embodied for over six months and the individual works to prevent a relapse to earlier stages of the model.
- Termination – at this point, the individual has no desire to return to the older behavior and is confident they will not relapse. However, Prochaska and DiClemente acknowledged that relatively few people reach this stage.
Today, TTM has been widely adopted and is used in school bullying, condom use, sunscreen use, exercise adoption, and cancer screening.
The theory of planned behavior
The theory of planned behavior (TPB) was developed in 1980 to predict someone’s intention to perform a behavior at a specific place and time. Fundamental to TPB is the idea that behavioral intentions are influenced by:
- The individual’s attitude toward the likelihood that their behavior will result in an expected outcome, and
- Their evaluation of the benefits and risks of the said outcome.
TPB has been used to predict and explain a diverse range of health behaviors such as substance use, breastfeeding, and the health services utilization. It has also been applied to public relations, sports management, sustainability, and advertising.
Diffusion of innovation theory
Developed in 1962 by American communication theorist E.M. Rogers, the diffusion of innovation theory is one of the oldest still in use today.
The theory explains how innovative products or ideas spread across a specific population or social system over time.
As it builds momentum and infiltrate more of the population, the new product, idea, or indeed behavior becomes commonplace.
Rogers’ theory has categories that describe this process:
- Innovators – the people who want to be the first to try an innovation.
- Early adopters – opinion leaders who embrace change, enjoy positions of leadership and are comfortable adopting new ideas.
- Early majority – these individuals need to see evidence that the innovation has merit before they are convinced of the need to change.
- Late majority – skeptical individuals who will only embrace change after it has been embraced by the majority of the population.
- Laggards – these people are conservative, bound by tradition, and are the hardest group to convince to try something new.
- Behavioral change models seek to explain the reasons behind changes in human behavior. Since behavior is often ingrained and subconscious, these models can be used to develop interventions that are both effective and sustainable.
- While behavioral change models are often used in the context of healthcare, they can also explain how new ideas, products, and innovations spread through a population or social system.
- Behavioral change model examples include the theory of planned behavior, diffusion of innovation theory, and the transtheoretical model.
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