Chapter 7 Identifying Behavior Change Principles

Once it is clear which aspects of the human psychology need to be targeted with an intervention to promote the desired behavior, it becomes possible to start thinking about how to target those aspects. This is when the Methods for Behavior Change (BCMs, the term used in Intervention Mapping terminology, (Bartholomew, Parcel, and Kok 1998)) or Behavior Change Techniques (BCTs, the term used in the Behavior Change Wheel literature, (Abraham and Michie 2008)) come in. In this book, we will use the term Behavior Change Principles (BCPs, (Crutzen and Peters 2018)):

A BCP is any principle or any set of principles that can be applied to change behaviour, or more accurately, determinants of behaviour, with the assumption that it will be effective. Stated more strongly, we would argue that any intervention that successfully changes one or more determinants of behaviour must therefore involve one or more BCPs.

If you are familiar with BCTs but not with BCMs, it is important at this point to clearly understand the difference; ((Crutzen and Peters 2018)):

The idea is that BCMs are effective if the parameters for use are properly respected when translating BCMs to practical applications (Kok et al. 2016). In this vocabulary, there is a clear distinction between the active ingredients (the BCM) and the operationalisation of these principles (the practical application). The description of BCTs, on the other hand, ‘is precise enough to achieve reliability of recognition but the definition does not require that BCTs be effective’ (Michie, Johnson, and Johnston 2015), which is one of the reasons BCTs are not suited for intervention development. BCTs, therefore, are somewhat of an amalgam of BCMs (hypothetically effective methods of behaviour change) and prac- tical applications (operational definitions) that may include inactive ingredients. Those BCTs that are ineffective therefore involve no BCPs; and of those that are effective, their description may contain elements that are not required to adequately leverage the relevant BCPs.

Behavior change princples

In essence, this means figuring out how to help the target population individuals to learn specific things (see Chapter 2).

Behavior change principles


Abraham, C., and S. Michie. 2008. “A Taxonomy of Behavior Change Techniques Used in Interventions.” Health Psychology 27: 379–87.
Bartholomew, L. K., G. S. Parcel, and G. Kok. 1998. “Intervention Mapping: A Process for Developing Theory- and Evidence-Based Health Education Programs.” Health Education and Behavior 25: 545–63.
Crutzen, R., and G.-J.Y. Peters. 2018. “Evolutionary Learning Processes as the Foundation for Behaviour Change.” Health Psychology Review 12: 43–57.
Kok, G., N. H. Gottlieb, G.-J.Y. Peters, P. D. Mullen, G. S. Parcel, R. A. C. Ruiter, M. E Fernández, C. Markham, and L. K. Bartholomew. 2016. “A Taxonomy of Behavior Change Methods: An Intervention Mapping Approach.” Health Psychology Review 10: 297–312.
Michie, S., B. T. Johnson, and M. Johnston. 2015. “Advancing Cumulative Evidence on Behaviour Change Techniques and Interventions: A Comment on Peters, de Bruin, and Crutzen.” Health Psychology Review 9: 25–29.