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Int J Behav Nutr Phys Act. 2006 Sep 19;3:29.

Order is needed to promote linear or quantum changes in nutrition and physical activity behaviors: a reaction to 'A chaotic view of behavior change' by Resnicow and Vaughan.


Recently, Drs. Ken Resnicow and Roger Vaughan published a thought-provoking paper in the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity (IJBNPA). They argue that the most often used social-cognition theories in behavioral nutrition and physical activity are of limited use. These models describe behavior change as a linear event, while Resnicow and Vaughan posit that behavior change is more likely to occur in quantum leaps that are impossible to predict. They introduce Chaos Theory into the behavioral nutrition and physical activity domain as a more valid framework to study the complex process of health behavior change. The present paper is a commentary on Resnicow and Vaughan's article by Resnicow's opponent in a recent debate-session at the annual meeting of the International Society of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity. The chair of that meeting, Prof. Tom Baranowski, provides a separate commentary on Resnicow and Vaughan's paper also published recently in the IJBNPA. In the present commentary I relate Resnicow and Vaughan's paper to the other contributions to the Theory debate in the IJBNPA. I recognize the limited success of social cognition models, and, next to a better application of these models and more thorough research to test these model, also support research to further test the quantum and chaotic character of health behavior change. However, if such research supports the chaotic and quantum nature of health behavior change, the implications for behavioral nutrition and physical activity interventions may be limited, because even if behavior change is quantum rather than linear, the social cognition models are still relevant to inform interventions to promote quantum leaps in behavior change.

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