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Health Psychol Rev. 2015;9(3):323-44. doi: 10.1080/17437199.2014.941722. Epub 2014 Aug 8.

Theories of behaviour and behaviour change across the social and behavioural sciences: a scoping review.

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a Department of Clinical, Educational and Health Psychology , University College London , London , UK.
b School of Social and Community Medicine , University of Bristol , Bristol , UK.


Interventions to change health-related behaviours typically have modest effects and may be more effective if grounded in appropriate theory. Most theories applied to public health interventions tend to emphasise individual capabilities and motivation, with limited reference to context and social factors. Intervention effectiveness may be increased by drawing on a wider range of theories incorporating social, cultural and economic factors that influence behaviour. The primary aim of this paper is to identify theories of behaviour and behaviour change of potential relevance to public health interventions across four scientific disciplines: psychology, sociology, anthropology and economics. We report in detail the methodology of our scoping review used to identify these theories including which involved a systematic search of electronic databases, consultation with a multidisciplinary advisory group, web searching, searching of reference lists and hand searching of key behavioural science journals. Of secondary interest we developed a list of agreed criteria for judging the quality of the theories. We identified 82 theories and 9 criteria for assessing theory quality. The potential relevance of this wide-ranging number of theories to public health interventions and the ease and usefulness of evaluating the theories in terms of the quality criteria are however yet to be determined.


behaviour change; behavioural interventions; health behaviour; theory

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