Ralf Schwarzer

Freie Universität Berlin


Health behavior change: Constructs, mechanisms, and interventions

Health-compromising behaviors such as physical inactivity and poor dietary habits are difficult to change. Most social-cognitive theories assume that an individual’s intention to change is the best direct predictor of actual change. But people often do not behave in accordance with their intentions. This discrepancy between intention and behavior is due to several reasons. For example, unforeseen barriers could emerge, or people might give in to temptations. Therefore, intention needs to be supplemented by other, more proximal factors that might compromise or facilitate the translation of intentions into action. Some of these postintentional factors have been identified, such as perceived self-efficacy, action control, and strategic planning. They help to bridge the intention-behavior gap. The Health Action Process Approach (HAPA) suggests a distinction between (a) preintentional motivation processes that lead to a behavioral intention, and (b) postintentional volition processes that lead to the actual health behavior. In this presentation, the theory is explained, and studies are reported that examine the role of volitional mediators in the initiation and adherence to health behaviors. Findings from intervention studies on dental hygiene, physical activity, dietary habits, sunscreen use, vaccination, dust mask wearing, and hand hygiene are presented. Studies were conducted in Iran, Germany, Thailand, Costa Rica, Poland, China, and India. The focus is on constructs and mechanisms of change such as sequential mediation and moderated mediation. The general aim is to examine the theoretical backdrop of health behavior change. More details about theory and projects


Susan Michie

Centre for Behaviour Change, University College London


Advancing behavioural science through harnessing Artificial Intelligence: the Human Behaviour-Change Project

Behaviour change is essential if major health and societal problems are to be tackled.  Evidence is needed by researchers, policy-makers and practitioners about intervention effectiveness across contexts, and about mechanisms of action. Such evidence is currently produced on a vast but fragmented scale and more rapidly than humans can synthesise and access.  Computers have the capacity and speed to do this task but lack the organisational structure to do this successfully.

The Human Behaviour-Change Project is a collaboration of behavioural, computer and information scientists that is building an Artificial Intelligence system to continually scan the world literature on behaviour change, extract key information and use this to build and update the scientific understanding of human behaviour to answer variants of the ‘big question’: ‘What works, compared with what, how well, for whom, in what settings, for what behaviours and why?’

The project will: 1. Develop an ontology (structure for organising knowledge) of features of behaviour change intervention evaluations, 2. Annotate published literature using the ontology, 3. Build an automated feature extraction system, 4. Build a Machine Learning and Reasoning system to synthesise the evidence, 5. Develop an interactive user interface to interrogate and update the knowledge system created.


Robert West

Tobacco and Alcohol Research Group, University College London


Understanding motivation: making sense of theory

Motivation consists of brain processes that energise and direct behaviour. Given that someone has the capability and opportunity to engage in a set of behaviours at a given moment, motivation determines which behaviours s/he engages in and how. There are many theories of motivation, each focusing on different aspects. Some theories focus on ‘reflective’ choice processes, others focus on the role of what are often termed ‘automatic’ mechanisms involving emotional states, drives, habits and instincts; still others describe how reflective and automatic systems interact. This presentation will describe how the PRIME Theory of motivation integrates the divergent approaches to motivation in a common framework for use in the development of interventions to promote and support behaviour change.

The theory recognises that at each moment behaviour arises from the strongest of potentially competing impulses and inhibitions. These arise directly from stimuli interacting with learned (habitual) and unlearned (instinctive) stimulus-impulses associations, and indirectly from stimuli that lead to anticipated pleasure and satisfaction (wants) or relief from mental or physical discomfort (needs). These in turn arise from past associations between stimuli and emotional states and drive states, and from beliefs about the positive and negative features of courses of action. Our sense of identity enables us to form plans (self-conscious intentions) to enact courses of action in the future but these can only influence behaviour when they are recalled, and generate impulses or inhibitions that are strong enough to overcome others that are present at the time.

The presentation will conclude by giving examples of how this theory explains common problems of motivation such as addiction, and how it can be used to guide interventions to address these.


Bárbara Figueiredo

Escola de Psicologia da Universidade do Minho



O que (não) sabemos acerca da saúde mental peri-natal?


António Barbosa

Diretor do Centro de Bioética da Faculdade de Medicina da Universidade de Lisboa



Itinerários do Luto



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