Research at the CBC focuses on understanding behaviour change and applying that understanding to addressing real world problems. These include health-related topics such as smoking cessation, alcohol reduction, diabetes and weight management, and others such as cybersecurity, transport and pro-environmental behaviours. We also conduct research aimed at advancing theories of behaviour change and methods for studying it.
Selected current Research Projects – Applied
The Internet of Things (IoT) will bring many benefits for consumers, businesses and government but alongside these benefits will be a heightened risk to cyber threats. Cyberhygiene refers to the establishment and maintenance of an individual's online safety. The security behaviours users need to engage in to protect themselves in IoT environments is the focus of the behavioural science strand of PETRAS Internet of Things (IoT) Research Hub, a consortium of nine leading UK universities which will work together over the next three years to explore critical issues in privacy, ethics, trust, reliability, acceptability, and security (https://www.petrashub.org).
By working with IoT experts and partner institutions, our work seeks to promote behaviour change and lead to better cyberhygiene in IoT users. Specifically, the Cyberhygiene project seeks to:
- Identify key IoT cyberhygiene behaviours
- Understand user motivations and barriers to IoT cyberhygiene behaviours
- Develop guidelines for developers, companies, and end-users on improving security behaviours
- Identify intervention strategies to improve security behaviour
City4Age – Elderly-friendly city services for active and healthy ageing
Funder: EU Horizon2020
To reduce the economical and personal impact of the ageing population, 16 partners including engineers, computer scientists, city planners, and public sector representatives from seven European countries have been brought together to develop digital tools aimed at prolonging independent living in older age. With a specific focus on Mild Cognitive Impairment and Frailty, City4Age seeks to exploit the new possibilities arising from smart devices and the Internet of Things to both monitor and change health relevant behaviours in older adults. The UCL Centre for Behaviour Change is providing the behavioural science input for this project focusing on technical solutions for detecting and changing behaviours relevant to mild cognitive impairment and physical frailty.
Selected current Research Projects – Theoretical
The Human Behaviour-Change Project: Building the science of behaviour change for complex intervention development
Funder: Wellcome Trust
Human behaviour needs radical change to protect our individual and collective well-being. To achieve this, we need to develop more effective behaviour change interventions, tailored to the behaviour, population and setting. The Human Behaviour-Change Project will build an Artificial Intelligence system to continually scan the world literature on behaviour change, extract key information, and use this to build and update a model of human behaviour to answer the big question:
‘What behaviour change interventions work, how well, for whom, in what setting, for what behaviours and why?’
Behaviour Change Theories
A multidisciplinary literature review across the fields of psychology, sociology, economics and anthropology identified 83 theories of behaviour and behaviour change (Davis, Campbell, Hildon, Hobbs & Michie, 2014). These theories contained a total of 1725 constructs. Descriptions of each of these theories have been published as a compendium of behaviour change theories to provide a resource for researchers, policy makers and intervention designers (www.behaviourchangetheories.com; Michie, West, Campbell, Brown & Gainforth, 2014). Many of these theories showed considerable overlap with each other, and most were partial and/or underspecified.
A study, which aims to complete in 2017, has specified all 83 theories in terms of constructs and one of 14 relationships between those theories in such a way that they can be coded computationally. The aim is to use computational methods to create one or more ‘canonical’ theories representing the most commonly identified constructs and relationships.